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Decision on the Hudson 



Alan E. Cober 

Decision on the Hudson 

v~~o~i (rtAsii^ 


The Saratoga Campaign of lyyy 

John Luzader 

Office of Publications 

National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 

Washington, D.C. 


Library of Congress 
Catalog Card Number 73-600185 

For sale by 

the Superintendent of Documents 

US Government Printing Office 

Washington. DC 20402 

Stock Number 024-005-00568 
•frGPO 1975-587-139/1 NPS130 

1777: Year of Decision 



Battles at Saratoga 

Fruits of Victory 


A Note on Sources 

Decision on the Hudson 

iyyy: Year of Decision 

Fort St. Johns, Quebec, was no stranger to war 
and soldiers. Situated on the Richelieu River near 
the head of navigation between Lake Champlain and 
the St. Lawrence River, it occupied an important site 
on an old invasion route between Canada and New 
York. Successful and defeated soldiers had marched 
past, and rebellious Americans had captured it twice 
during the first year of the Revolution. During the 
early days of June 1777, it witnessed the opening of 
still another chapter in history as Lt. Gen. John 
Burgoyne's army assembled there to launch a new 
British offensive along Lake Champlain and the 
Hudson River. 

The commander of the army and the author of the 
plan for the campaign, 55-year-old John Burgoyne, 
was scion of an old Lancashire family and a man of 
many talents: veteran of 30 years' military service, 
member of Parliament, and playwright. He was, in 
many ways, a representative of the upper-class 
county families who dominated the political, social, 
and military life of 18th-century England. Intelligent, 
handsome, and humane, he was popular with his 
troops, who gave him the sobriquet "Gentleman 
Johnny." His less attractive traits were vanity and 
excessive ambition. 

General Burgoyne's American service began on 
May 25, 1775, when he and Maj. Gens. William 
Howe and Henry Clinton arrived in Boston to serve 
under Gen. Thomas Gage, whose troops were then 
under siege by rebel forces. That tour of duty was 
brief and ended when he returned to England the 
next November. Burgoyne's service in Boston was 
undistinguished, but in a memoranda to General 
Gage, he set forth his views on the importance of 
the region with which his future career was to be 
so closely associated: 

/ have always thought Hudson's River the most proper 
part of the whole continent for opening vigorous opera- 
tions. Because the course of the river, so beneficial for 
conveying all the bulky necessaries of an army, is pre- 
cisely the route that an army ought to take for the great 
purposes of cutting the communications between the 
Southern and Northern Provinces, giving confidence to 
the Indians, and securing a junction with the Canadian 
forces. These purposes effected, and a fleet upon the 
coast, it is to me morally certain that the forces of New 
England must be reduced so early in the campaign to 
give you battle upon your own terms, or perish before 
the end of it for want of necessary supplies. 

Burgoyne was not the first to appreciate the stra- 
tegic significance of the Lake Champlain-Hudson 
River waterway. It had been a military route since 
pre-colonial times. It was used by the Algonquin 
and Iroquois tribes during the generations of war- 
fare for the domination of the Old Northwest. French, 
Dutch, and English soldiers used it during their 
struggles for colonial empire. For nearly a century 
before the American Revolution, the tides of war had 
ebbed and flowed along this route, and Forts Crown 
Point, St. Frederick, Ticonderoga, Edward, Miller, 
William Henry, George, Hardy, and St. Johns had 
been built to exploit and secure its military potential. 
For traders, missionaries, and settlers, it was a high- 
way linking Canada and Manhattan. 

Burgoyne's opinion of the historic route was shared 
by both British and American strategists. In 1775, 
the Americans' abortive Canadian campaign, under- 
taken to add that Province to the roster of rebellious 
colonies, reflected an appreciation of the region's 
military and political importance. The resultant Brit- 
ish counteroffensive under Gen. Sir Guy Carleton 
was based upon the same strategic assessment. 

Carleton, governor and commanding general in 
Canada, began his campaign by driving the Ameri- 
cans back into New York. Then, in June 1776, he 
launched his army down the Champlain-Hudson 
route toward Albany, from whence he planned to 
cooperate with forces under Gen. William Howe 
advancing northward from New York City. The 
British would dominate upper New York; communi- 
cations between New York City and Canada would 
be secured; and New England, the heart of the 
rebellion, would be caught between the sea and a 
successful, united royal army. The goals were not 
realized because Howe's advance ended on the 
Delaware River instead of the upper Hudson and 
because a lake flotilla under Gen. Benedict Arnold 
delayed Carleton's forces at Valcour Island until 
approaching winter persuaded the British com- 
mander to abort his campaign and return to Canada. 

Burgoyne's role in Carleton's 1776 offensive was dis- 
appointing to him. He had hoped for an independ- 
ent field command and conditions had favored his 
chances. Lord George Germain, Secretary of State 
for Colonies and the minister responsible for the 
conduct of the war in America, was determined that 
Carleton should not command the advance from 
Canada. His first choice was Gen. Henry Clinton, but 

1777: Year of Decision 

Clinton had been ordered south on what turned out 
to be an inglorious expedition against Charleston, 
S.C., and was not available. It seemed that Bur- 
goyne's hour had arrived: he was dispatched to 
Canada as Carleton's second in command and com- 
missioned to lead the offensive. Storms delayed de- 
livery of the letter assigning him the field command, 
and when Burgoyne arrived, Carleton had already 
begun operations. Lacking orders to relinquish his 
command to his subordinate, Sir Guy retained it, 
and Burgoyne functioned as his second in command. 
Carleton's failure to pass Lake Champlain and se- 
cure the upper Hudson did not enhance his repu- 
tation at court. 

Like Clinton and some other officers who were mem- 
bers of Parliament, Burgoyne returned to England at 
the end of 1776 to attend the winter sessions and to 
advance his personal interests. He carried a letter 
from Carleton recommending him to the Colonial 
Secretary as a source of information and advice; 
and Burgoyne used this to his own advantage, openly 
soliciting command of the next northern offensive. 

The man who held the key to his success was 
61-year-old Lord George Germain. Son of the First 
Duke of Dorset, Germain had started public life as 
a soldier. That career had ended in 1760 when a 
court-martial found him guilty of disobeying orders 
during the Battle of Minden the year before. Although 
the sentence did not result in his being cashiered, 
the court expressed the opinion that he was "unfit to 
serve ... in any military capacity whatever." A mem- 
ber of Parliament since 1746, Germain concentrated 
on a political career and made the slow, difficult 
ascent to influence, eventually becoming a sup- 
porter of Lord Frederick North, who became Prime 
Minister in March 1770. Although he lacked a per- 
sonal following in the House of Commons and had a 
number of personal and political enemies, Germain 
became Secretary of State for Colonies on November 
10, 1775. 

Advocating a staunch, coercive policy against the 
rebellious Americans, Germain energetically mobil- 
ized Britain's resources for the prosecution of the 
war. Regiment after regiment was raised, trained, 
equipped, and transported to North America. His 
responsibilities were not limited to allocating re- 
sources, however; they also included the develop- 
ment and definition of Britain's grand strategy. This 
involved important relations with the two command- 




ers he inherited when he came to office: William 
Howe and Sir Guy Carleton. 

Germain's relations with Howe during 1776 had been 
amicable, but his attitude toward Carleton was very 
different. A hostility of obscure origin existed be- 
tween them and fed upon every opportunity for fric- 
tion until it ripened into a hatred that both men 

The Carleton-Germain feud bore fruit that poisoned 
British military administration in America. When 
General Gage was recalled to England in October 
1775, Carleton became the senior general officer in 
North America — a status that normally would have 
guaranteed him the command of the united British 
army whenever the forces from Canada and those 
from the Atlantic seaboard should merge. But Ger- 
main's hostility blocked the general's chances of 
ever realizing this prospect. Instead of providing for 
an eventual unified command, the government di- 
vided the forces in North America into two inde- 
pendent armies. General Howe became commander 
in chief in the "thirteen colonies," replacing Gage, 
while Carleton retained the Canadian command. 
Germain's determination that Carleton should not 
lead an offensive from Canada was consistent with 
this division of authority. 

Ministers at Whitehall assumed that the Champlain- 
Hudson offensive would be resumed in 1777. The 
most obvious question was who would lead it. With 
Carleton eliminated, the choice lay between Bur- 
goyne and Henry Clinton, Howe's second in com- 
mand, who, like Burgoyne, was unhappy in his sub- 
ordinate status. Both men were in London and both 
were eager for independent commands. Clinton was 
senior of the two and he could have had the assign- 
ment had he asked for it. But he did not solicit the 
command, probably because he believed that Howe 
would give it to him when the army from Canada 
came under that general's authority. After consider- 
ing Clinton, the Cabinet decided to send Burgoyne 
back to Canada to lead the next offensive. Clinton 
received a knighthood and returned to New York as 
Howe's second in command with a dormant commis- 
sion to succeed the commander in chief should he 
resign or become incapacitated. 

Burgoyne was not idle while his professional future 
was being considered. He was busy preparing pro- 
posals for the next northern campaign. On Febru- 

1777: Year of Decision 

ary 28, 1777, he sent Germain his "Thoughts for 
Conducting the War from the Side of Canada." 

The first objective of the campaign would be to 
secure the navigation of Lake Champlain. Crown 
Point would then be captured and used as a tempo- 
rary base of operations. Hopefully, Fort Ticonderoga, 
the first major obstacle to the advance southward, 
would fall early in the summer, when it would "then 
become a more proper place for arms than Crown 
Point." Once these places were secured, "The next 
measure must depend upon those taken by the 
enemy, and upon the general plan of the campaign 
as concerted at home." If the ministry decided that 
General Howe's entire army would act on the Hud- 
son and "if the only object of the Canada army is 
to effect a junction with that force," Burgoyne pro- 
posed to advance to Albany by way of Lake George. 
Otherwise, he suggested that his army might cooper- 
ate with troops in Rhode Island to gain control of the 
Connecticut River, stating that "Should the junction 
between the Canada and Rhode Island armies be 
effected upon the Connecticut, it would not be too 
sanguine an expectation that all the New England 
provinces will be reduced by their operations." Bur- 
goyne also believed that a secondary offensive by 
way of Lake Ontario and the Mohawk River would be 
desirable "as a diversion to facilitate every proposed 
operation." Should these propositions be considered 
impractical and the force from Canada too small to 
undertake an overland campaign, it might be wise to 
transfer it by sea to join Howe in New York. Nothing 
in Burgoyne's proposals suggested that garrisoning 
the Champlain-Hudson line and isolating New Eng- 
land were the objectives of the campaign. British 
success on the Hudson might result in a strategic 
isolation of New England, but the general did not 
develop this thesis in his "Thoughts." 

Because his proposals were, in the final analysis, 
a discussion of alternatives, Burgoyne did not pre- 
cisely define his objectives. As he noted in connec- 
tion with proposed moves following the reduction of 
Ticonderoga, his course would depend "upon the 
general plan of the campaign as concerted at 
home." He assumed that the King and his ministers 
would draft a comprehensive plan for 1777 defining 
how he and General Howe would coordinate their 
activities. In only one instance, and that somewhat 
ambiguous, did Burgoyne anticipate what his objec- 
tive might be: "These ideas are formed upon the 
supposition that it be the sole purpose of the Cana- 


dian army to effect a junction with General Howe, or 
after cooperating so far as to get possession of 
Albany and open the communication to New York, 
to remain upon the Hudson's River, and thereby en- 
able that general to act with his whole force to the 
southward." He thus expected that the two generals 
would act in concert, but he did not detail how or to 
what extent this should be done. 

While Burgoyne worked out his proposals for 1777, 
General Howe was developing his own ideas, and 
during the course of several months he drafted plans 
that were to have significant repercussions on the 
outcome of the campaign. Like Carleton, Howe had 
served in America during the Seven Years' War, com- 
manding the 58th Regiment of Foot in Gen. Jeffrey 
Amherst's successful operation against Louisbourg, 
Nova Scotia, in 1758. The next year he headed the 
light infantry battalion that led Gen. James Wolfe's 
force onto the Heights of Abraham in the capture of 
Quebec. He also commanded a "brigade of detach- 
ments" in 1760, when Amherst captured Montreal. 
A Whig member of Parliament from Nottingham and 
a critic of the ministry's repressive American pol- 
icies, he, nevertheless, returned to America with 
Clinton and Burgoyne in May 1775 to serve under 
General Gage in Boston. He personally commanded 
the British troops in the Battle of Bunker Hill on 
June 17 and later succeeded Gage as commander 
in chief. 

After evacuating Boston in March 1776, Howe more 
than redeemed the British position in America dur- 
ing the following summer and autumn. At Long 
Island, N.Y., on August 27, he soundly defeated 
Gen. George Washington's Continental Army in the 
"first pitched battle" of the war. He followed this 
success by capturing New York City and Forts Wash- 
ington and Lee on the Hudson; but he failed to profit 
by his tactical advantage, and Washington escaped 
across New Jersey with most of his army. The Amer- 
ican general's retreat to Pennsylvania surprised the 
British, who had expected him to take refuge in New 
England. By pursuing Washington, Howe ended his 
campaign on the Delaware, making it impossible for 
him to cooperate with Carleton on the Hudson. 

While Howe displayed sound strategic and tactical 
skill, he had not been very aggressive in following 
up his advantages. Nevertheless, he retained the 
King's and Germain's favor and was knighted for his 
victory on Long Island. 

-7 777: Year of Decision 

On November 30, 1776, while Washington's demoral- 
ized army retreated across New Jersey, Sir William 
wrote two letters to Lord Germain. In the first he 
reported on the successful operations around New 
York City. In the second he informed the Colonial 
Secretary that he intended to quarter a large body 
of troops in East Jersey for the winter and that he 
expected the Americans would try to cover their 
capital, Philadelphia, by establishing a line on either 
the Raritan or Delaware Rivers. Howe also notified 
Germain that he had learned that Carleton had 
abandoned his offensive. He presumed that it would 
be renewed in the spring, but he did not expect the 
Canadian army to reach Albany until September. 
Carleton's performance made this a reasonable 
assumption. Upon this premise, Howe proposed a 
plan he believed might "finish the War in one Year 
by an extensive and vigorous Exertion of His Maj- 
esty's arms." 

His plan was essentially a continuation of current 
strategy against New England. Briefly stated, he 
proposed two simultaneous offensives: one, with 
Rhode Island as a base, to be directed at Boston; 
the second to ascend the Hudson and rendezvous 
with the renewed advance from Canada. A third 
force would act in New Jersey to check Washington 
by exploiting American fears for the safety of Phila- 
delphia, which Howe "proposed to attack in the 
Autumn, as well as Virginia, provided the Success 
of the other operations will admit of an adequate 
Force to be sent against that Province." South 
Carolina and Georgia would be the objectives of a 
winter campaign. This ambitious plan would require 
two additional ships of the line and at least 35,000 
men. Placing his present strength at 20,000, Howe 
figured that he needed a reinforcement of 15,000 
men. He knew that these could not be raised in 
Great Britain and suggested that the Government 
hire troops from Russia and Hanover and other 
German states. 

On December 20, ten days before his letters of 
November 30 reached London, Howe wrote another 
letter to Germain containing a new plan. At that 
time, the British seemed to have firm control of 
New Jersey, and Sir William believed that American 
capabilities to continue the fight were diminishing. 
He also thought the sentiments of the Pennsylvan- 
ians were turning toward peace, "in which Sentiment 
they would be confirmed by our getting Possession 
of Philadelphia." He was "fully persuaded the Prin- 


cipal Army should act offensively on that side." This 
change in priorities required that the New England 
offensive be postponed until after reinforcements 
arrived from Europe, so "that there might be a Corps 
to act defensively on the lower part of Hudson's 
River to cover Jersey and to facilitate in some de- 
gree the approach of the Canada Army." Howe low- 
ered his troop requirements from 35,000 to 19,000, 
which he proposed to distribute in the following 
manner: 2,000 in Rhode Island, 4,000 in New York 
City, 3,000 to operate on the lower Hudson, and 
10,000 for the campaign against Philadelphia. 

Howe's second plan represented a major change in 
strategy. Concerted operations against New England 
would be abandoned in favor of a campaign in 
Pennsylvania, and the renewed Champlain-Hudson 
offensive would have to be undertaken without a 
comparable effort on the lower part of the river. Low- 
ering his manpower requirements was a retreat from 
ultimate needs to meeting immediate short-range 

Before either of Howe's plans could be received in 
London, the situation in New Jersey took a dramatic 
turn that dissipated Sir William's fragile optimism 
and decisively affected his thinking. With an audacity 
born of desperation, Washington attacked and cap- 
tured most of Howe's German troops at Trenton on 
the morning of December 26; then he defeated a 
British force at Princeton and executed a skillful 
withdrawal into the hills around Morristown. Wash- 
ington's army, which had teetered on the brink of 
dissolution, not only continued to exist — it had re- 
gained West Jersey. 

Howe's November 30 correspondence containing his 
first plan reached London on December 30. In a letter 
dated January 14, 1777, Germain told Sir William 
that the King would "defer sending you his Senti- 
ments on your Plan for the next Campaign until He 
was enabled to take the whole into His Royal Con- 
sideration." On February 23, Germain received the 
December 20 letter containing Howe's second plan, 
as well as a dispatch dated December 29 reporting 
on the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. The Colonial 
Secretary's reply to Sir William on March 3 approved 
the plan to attack Philadelphia in these words: "I 
am now commanded to acquaint you that the King 
entirely approves of your proposed Deviation from 
the Plan which you formerly suggested, being of 
Opinion that the Reasons which have induced you to 

1171 : Year of Decision 

recommend this change in your Operations are solid 
and decisive." 

While the Government in London studied Burgoyne's 
and Howe's proposals and prepared its own plans 
for 1777, Sir William became increasingly pessimistic. 
He believed that the winning of the war required the 
steady expansion of British occupation as well as 
the destruction of the American army. Frustrated by 
the Government's inability to provide him with ade- 
quate reinforcements and by his own failure to bring 
Washington to battle on British terms, he decided to 
alter his plans for the attack on Philadelphia. Wash- 
ington's position on Howe's flank ruled out a direct 
advance across New Jersey, and crossing the Dela- 
ware with 90 miles of exposed communications in 
his rear would be folly. On April 2 Howe sent a third 
plan to Germain in which he proposed to abandon the 
overland route to Philadelphia in favor of one by sea. 
His letter contained a revealing note: "Restricted 
as I am, from entering upon more extensive oper- 
ations by the want of force, my hopes of terminating 
the war this year are vanished." But he expected 
by the end of the campaign to hold New York, 
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, "though that must 
depend upon the success of the Northern Army." 

The change from a land to a sea route had important 
results. First, it delayed the opening of the campaign. 
Secondly, it removed Howe's army from between 
Washington and both New York City and Burgoyne. 
Washington could not abandon the defense of Phila- 
delphia, but he could send troops northward to help 
check the advance from Canada. Thirdly, by taking 
the major part of his army to sea, Howe made it im- 
possible for him either to cooperate with Burgoyne 
or to go to his assistance should he get into difficulty. 
The force of 4,000 regulars and 3,000 Loyalists that 
Howe left in New York under Sir Henry Clinton was 
too small to carry out either of those contingencies. 
The British had thus lost the degree of tactical flexi- 
bility they needed to cope with two armies that were 
potentially numerically superior, relatively mobile, 
and operating on interior lines. 

Behind Sir William's second and third plans lay three 
important attitudes. In the first place, he did not be- 
lieve that the Americans could prevent Burgoyne 
from reaching Albany. Secondly, he conceived that 
his obligation to cooperate was not concerned with 
helping Burgoyne reach Albany, but rather to help 
maintain him once he arrived there. And thirdly, as 

1777: Year of Decision 

had been the case with Carleton's campaign in 1776, 
Howe, while paying lip-service to the importance of 
the invasion from Canada, showed little interest in it. 

Sir William Howe and John Burgoyne could draft 
proposals and plans, but the King and his ministers 
were responsible for making the final decisions. 
They selected from among the available alternatives 
and tried to coordinate the efforts of the armies in the 
field, to define objectives, to assign priorities, and to 
apportion resources. The minister most intimately 
involved in this process was Colonial Secretary Ger- 
main. At the time Lord George and his colleagues 
began developing their plans for 1777 they were still 
ignorant of the dramatic and fateful events of Tren- 
ton and Princeton, and they could look back on 1776 
with some satisfaction. Large armies had been 
raised, equipped, and transported to North America; 
Canada was still British; New York City and Long 
Island were reclaimed; and as far as anyone in Lon- 
don knew, New Jersey was securely in British hands. 
The rebellion seemed almost crushed. 

While the King and the ministry had reason to con- 
gratulate themselves, the failure to win the American 
war by the close of 1776 exposed Britain to dangers 
that only a victory in 1777 could dispel. The concen- 
tration of so much of her military capability in Amer- 
ica was a bold, calculated gamble taken in the face 
of a possible French attack. Against this danger had 
been weighed the greater advantage of ending the 
rebellion before European neighbors could intervene 
to England's detriment 

That the rebellion was almost crushed was not 
enough. Its total defeat had to be accomplished and 
soon, because during the summer of 1776 France 
had inched toward war, convinced that she faced an 
opportunity to redeem the interests and prestige she 
had lost in the Seven Years' War. The French were 
already providing munitions and other military sup- 
plies to the Americans. The decision to openly join 
the rebellion would depend upon events in America. 
Would Britain and the Colonies be reconciled? 
Could the Americans continue to fight with reason- 
able hopes for making independence a reality? 
British successes on Long Island and Manhattan 
seemed to answer in the negative, and France drew 
back. The amazing American recovery that attended 
and followed Trenton and Princeton made it even 
more obvious that England needed an early, decisive 
victory to make French withdrawal permanent. 


When George III and his ministers studied Burgoyne's 
proposals, they had at hand Howe's first plan for 
1777; his letter of December 20 altering that plan by 
shifting the offensive priority from New England to 
Philadelphia (to which the King gave his assent on 
March 3); and Howe's letter of December 29 report- 
ing the American successes at Trenton and Prince- 
ton. The British leaders accepted the broad outline 
of Burgoyne's proposals and directed him to "force 
his way to Albany," seconded by a diversion down 
the Mohawk under the command of Lt. Col. Barry 
St. Leger. Burgoyne and St. Leger would meet at 
Albany and put themselves under Sir William Howe's 
command. Pending receipt of orders from Howe, 
Burgoyne was to act as his judgment and tactical 
situation required, always remembering that his main 
objective was a junction with his new commander. 
Howe was not required to meet Burgoyne and St. 
Leger at Albany, and Burgoyne, in defining the cam- 
paign's purpose, had not insisted upon a physical 
rendezvous. He would join Howe or cooperate with 
him in a way that would facilitate the latter's south- 
ern operations. In short, everyone, including Bur- 
goyne himself, expected the Canadian army to reach 
Albany without assistance from the south. 

As noted earlier, Germain's March 3 letter to Howe 
approved the plan to attack Philadelphia. Sir 
William's letter of April 2 proposing to take his army 
to Pennsylvania by sea was not received until May 
8, after the other elements of the plans had been 
approved and after Burgoyne had returned to Can- 
ada. Ten days later, Germain wrote that the King, 
confident of Howe's judgment, approved of any al- 
teration in plan that the general thought wise, "trust- 
ing, however, that whatever you may meditate, it will 
be executed in time for you to cooperate with the 
army ordered to proceed from Canada and put itself 
under your command." Because a letter dispatched 
in mid-May could not reach Howe for several weeks, 
the King and his colonial secretary had no choice 
but to concur. Their response was promptly posted, 
but it did not reach Sir William until he was on 
Chesapeake Bay en route to Philadelphia. By that 
time the only part of Howe's army that could coop- 
erate with Burgoyne was that portion left in and 
around New York City under Sir Henry Clinton. And 
Clinton had received no positive orders, nor did he 
have enough men, to go to Burgoyne's relief should 
the Canadian army encounter more opposition than 
expected and need assistance. 


Burgoyne returned to Canada on May 6. On June 13, 
in a solemn ceremony at St. John's, Sir Guy Carleton 
invested him with the command of his 8,000-man 
army. Handing over the leadership of the great offen- 
sive was a bitter experience for Carleton, but he 
bore it with dignity. Despite his disappointment, Sir 
Guy did everything within his power to assist Bur- 
goyne in organizing the expedition. 

The "army from Canada" made a brave display as 
4,119 British, 3,217 German, and 250 Canadian and 
Loyalist soldiers, attended by perhaps 1,000 non- 
combatants and camp followers and about 400 
Indians, started the fateful march southward. Their 
train of artillery consisted of at least 42 field pieces; 
in addition, 30 armed boats carried 282 cannon and 
10 howitzers. For land transport, the army had hun- 
dreds of carts, and for water carriage, 29 longboats, 
20 cutters, 10 "flat bottom" boats, and 260 batteaux. 

Despite problems in collecting adequate carts and 
a sufficient supply of draught horses, the expedition 
got off to a good start. The preliminary objective, 
Crown Point, was taken on June 16. For the next 2 
weeks, the army and its support flotilla and train 
assembled for the actual opening of the campaign. 
On June 30, Burgoyne issued a general order that 

The army embarks to-morrow, to approach the enemy. 
We are to contend for the King, and the constitution of 
Great Britain, to vindicate Law, and to relieve the op- 
pressed — a cause in which his Majesty's Troops and 
those of the Princes his Allies, will feel equal excitement. 
The services required of this particular expedition, are 
critical and conspicuous. During our progress occasions 
may occur, in which, no difficulty, nor labour, nor life 
are to be regarded. This Army must not Retreat. 

Having provided for the security of Crown Point, the 
troops and their popular, confident commander, were 
now prepared to move against their first major 
obstacle — Fort Ticonderoga. 

Ten miles south of Crown Point, Ticonderoga stands 
on a promontory that dominates the entrances to the 
southern end of Lake Champlain and Lake George, 
both of which provide water routes to within a few 
miles of the Hudson. Built by France during the 
Seven Years' War, the square, bastioned, stone fort 
had been captured in 1759 by the British, who oc- 
cupied it for the next 16 years. In 1775, American 






forces under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold took 
it away from the British and, during the months that 
followed, repaired and enlarged its defenses. 
The Americans also built new works on Mount 
Independence across the river. By mid-June 1 777 the 
garrison under Scottish-born Gen. Arthur St. Clair 
consisted of about 2,500 Continentals and militiamen, 
one-fifth the minimum number required to man the 
more than 2,000 yards of outer defense lines. Not 
only were there not enough men; a shortage of every 
necessity — food, clothing, and arms — sapped morale 
and efficiency. 

The American defenders watched the British 
approach their northern fortress with more appre- 
hension than confidence. Gen. Philip Schuyler, 
commander of the Northern Department charged 
with halting the British offensive, had no illusions 
about the "combat-readiness" of his troops. In a 
frame of mind that reflected that pessimism, he left 
his headquarters in Albany and presided over a 
council of war in the fort on June 20. Knowing that 
the garrison was too weak to hold the entire works, 
the council decided to defend the fort as long as 
possible and then withdraw to Mount Independence 
across the lake to the southeast. If that position be- 
came untenable, the troops would retreat southward 
in small boats, or batteaux, moored behind the log 
boom the Americans had laid across the channel to 
close the passage between the upper and lower ends 
of Lake Champlain. Satisfied that he had provided 
for the defense of the "Gibraltar of the North," as 
Ticonderoga was called, Schuyler returned to 
Albany, leaving St. Clair to carry out the council's 
plan as best he could. The weakness of the plan was 
that any force strong enough to drive the Patriots out 
of Ticonderoga would be strong enough to prevent 
them from retreating to Mount Independence. 

The British operations against Ticonderoga began 
on July 2 when Brig. Gen. Simon Fraser's Advanced 
Corps approached the American outer lines at Mount 
Hope. The rebel garrison set fire to the works and 
fled to the "old French lines," entrenchments that 
stretched across the promontory north of the for- 
tress. The British next took up a position within less 
than 100 yards of the lines and opened fire. St. Clair, 
believing this to be the prelude to an assault, ordered 
his troops to hold their fire until a command for 
concerted shooting was given. Emboldened by the 
American silence, a British soldier crawled ahead 
of his unit. One of St. Clair's officers, Lt. Col. 


James Wilkinson, ordered a sergeant to shoot the 
man. The shot was interpreted as the signal to open 
fire. The entire American line leaped to its feet and, 
joined by the artillery, fired a series of volleys at 
the enemy. When order was restored, the British 
had withdrawn out of range. At least 3,000 musket 
shots had been fired and eight pieces of artillery dis- 
charged at a force of 500 men within a range of 
100 yards. The results: one British soldier dead and 
two wounded! The only "casualty" remaining on the 
field was the sergeant's target. When a burial party 
went out to dispose of him, it found him untouched 
and "passed out" in a drunken stupor. He was taken 

On July 4, while an indecisive artillery duel depleted 
the Americans' ammunition and St. Clair received 
reinforcements in the form of 900 militiamen, Bur- 
goyne deployed his forces. On the morning of the 
5th, St. Clair learned that the enemy was mounting 
cannon on the summit of Mount Defiance, southwest 
of Ticonderoga. The Americans had not occupied 
the hill because they thought it too steep to be 
scaled by artillery. Burgoyne's chief of artillery and 
second in command, Gen. William Phillips, believed 
otherwise. "Where a goat can go, a man can go," he 
declared; "and where a man can go, he can drag a 
gun." While these cannon could not hit the fort, they 
could prevent the defenders from withdrawing across 
the lake to Mount Independence. That night, after a 
heavy artillery bombardment of the British lines, the 
Americans evacuated Fort Ticonderoga. Col. Pierce 
Long of New Hampshire, with about 400 men, took 
the supplies and invalids up the lake to Skenesboro 
(now Whitehall, N.Y.) by boat; St. Clair marched the 
rest of his army along the eastern side of the lake 
behind Mount Independence southeast toward Hub- 
bardton. From there he would move on to Castleton 
and then west to Skenesboro to join Long. 

While General Fraser's Advanced Corps, supported 
by German Jagers and grenadiers, pursued the main 
body of Americans, Burgoyne garrisoned Ticon- 
deroga and Mount Independence, and decided upon 
his next move. He had a choice of two routes south- 
ward — one by way of Lake George, another by way 
of Skenesboro. He chose the latter, basing his deci- 
sion on four factors. First, Lake George is 221 feet 
above Lake Champlain, and he would have to drag 
his artillery, stores, and boats up this rise through a 
connecting gorge 5 miles. Secondly, by choosing 
the Lake George route, he would alert the Americans 


to the fact that he was not threatening New England. 
By keeping east of the lake, he believed he was con- 
fusing them concerning his objective. Thirdly, the 
Americans were retreating toward Castleton, and if 
he expected to catch them, he would have to move 
south and east, unless he could be certain that by 
advancing via Lake George he would cut them 
off before they reached the Hudson. Finally, the Lake 
George route had two portages (one of them 5 miles 
long), whereas the other route had only one. 

While the British prepared to continue their advance, 
St. Clair's men, sweltering in the intense July heat, 
swore their way along the narrow, rough, and rutted 
trace that led to the small hamlet of Hubbardton (in 
present-day Vermont). Arriving there on July 6, St. 
Clair drove most of his weary, disheartened soldiers 
another 6 miles to the day's objective, Castleton. He 
left Lt. Col. Seth Warner and 150 Vermont men at 
Hubbardton with orders to bring in the rearguard, 
consisting of the Massachusetts Regiment under Col. 
Ebenezer Francis and the New Hampshire Regiment 
under Col. Nathan Hale (not the youthful patriot 
hanged as a spy by the British in 1776). 

Warner, long on courage and short on discipline, 
disobeyed his orders. Instead of bringing in the rear- 
guard, he and Francis decided to spend the night 
where they were, not aware that General Fraser's 
British corps was camped just 3 miles to the north- 
west. The next morning, July 7, while the Americans 
were preparing breakfast, Fraser attacked. The 
Americans had not bothered to post sentries or 
pickets, and the surprise was complete. Hale's men 
fled in disorder, but Warner and Francis rallied their 
troops, and a fierce fight began. 

The heavily wooded Hubbardton area presented the 
British with a frustrating maze that snagged their 
gear and seemed to shelter an American behind 
every tree and bush. Orderly unit action was almost 
impossible. Fraser tried to turn the American left 
by sending his grenadiers under the Earl of Bal- 
carres up steep Zion Hill, but the Americans drew 
back, "refusing the flank," while hitting the weak- 
ened British left. Balcarres' maneuver was neutral- 
ized, and he suffered severe losses from a withering 
fire. Fraser was about to order a desperate bayonet 
attack when he heard a strange sound from the 
forest. A band was playing and lusty voices were 
singing an ancient German hymn. The Brunswickers 
had arrived. 


Gen. Friedrich Adolphus von Riedesel, commanding 
the German contingent supporting Fraser, had heard 
the sounds of battle as he approached Zion Hill. The 
39-year-old veteran cavalryman hurried his men 
forward, sending his advanced guard against the 
American right. The Jagers, their band playing as 
though on review, advanced in formation against a 
vicious fire. Francis' Massachusetts Regiment poured 
volley after volley into them, but the Germans closed 
ranks and continued the attack. Francis held his 
ground until the turning movement enveloped his 
right, when he fell mortally wounded. Fraser's sol- 
diers delivered a successful bayonet charge, and 
the Massachusetts Regiment broke and disappeared 
into the woods. The Vermonters, their right exposed, 
could stand no longer. At Warner's command, they 
evaporated into the wilderness to meet and reform 
at Manchester, south of Hubbardton. 

At Castleton, St. Clair heard the sounds of battle, but 
he had no hymn-singing professionals to send back 
against the British. What he did have were two militia 
regiments, which, with their customary cavalier 
attitude toward discipline, had dropped out of the 
line of march and encamped 2 miles from Hubbard- 
ton. St. Clair ordered them to go to Warner's 
assistance, but they refused and hastily rejoined the 
main column toward which they had acted so indepen- 
dently the day before. While trying to organize a relief 
force among his own soldiers, whose reluctance in- 
creased with the arrival of the insubordinate militia, 
St. Clair learned of Warner's defeat. The issue was 
settled — the Americans would continue their with- 
drawal toward Skenesboro. 

Meanwhile, Col. Pierce Long's invalid- and supply- 
laden flotilla, retreating from Ticonderoga, reached 
Skenesboro on July 6, closely pursued by the main 
part of Burgoyne's army. One look at the place con- 
vinced Long that it could not be defended against a 
strong enemy attack. After setting fire to whatever 
would burn, including most of the supplies, and 
abandoning everything else, he and his men set out 
quickly for colonial Fort Anne, about 12 miles to the 
south on Wood Creek. 

Burgoyne entered Skenesboro that same day, send- 
ing Lt. Col. John Hill with the 9th Regiment in pursuit 
of Long, who reached Fort Anne before the British 
could intercept him. Fortunately for the Americans, 
Hill's advance was slowed by the nearly impassable 
road, and it was the evening of the 7th before the 


British reached a position 1 mile from the fort. Early 
the next morning, an American entered Hill's camp, 
claimed to be a deserter, and told Hill that Long had 
1,000 men in the fort. Because he had only 190 men, 
Hill sent back for reinforcements. The "deserter" 
noted Hill's weakness and promptly slipped away to 
report it to Long. By this time, Col. Henry van Rens- 
selaer with 400 New York militia had reinforced 
Long, and the Americans attacked the British where 
they were encamped on a narrow, wooded shelf of 
land between the creek and a steep, 500-foot-high 
ridge. To avoid being surrounded, Hill's men scram- 
bled up the ridge and held the Americans at bay for 
2 hours. Just when the British were running out of 
ammunition and were under attack from all sides, 
they heard an Indian war whoop. The Americans 
heard it too. Short on ammunition, tired from press- 
ing the attack, and having no desire to take on a 
fresh war party, they beat a hasty retreat, setting fire 
to the fort as they withdrew. 

There had been a war cry, but there were no Indians 
— just one lone officer, Capt. John Money. He had 
been sent with a party of Indians to support Hill, and 
when the Indians lagged behind, the captain went 
on ahead. When he reached the scene of the fighting 
and saw Hill's predicament, he gambled and gave 
the yell. The ruse worked. 

In the light of Long's withdrawal and the disaster at 
Hubbardton, all that St. Clair could do was to try to 
save his army by making a long detour around 
Skenesboro and retreat to Fort Edward, a dilapidated 
colonial war fortification at the Great Carrying Place 
between Wood Creek and the Hudson. He arrived 
there on July 1 2 and was met by Schuyler, who took 
personal command of the field operations. By this 
time, Schuyler was under fire for the loss of Ticon- 
deroga, but his army was neither physically nor 
psychologically capable of stopping the British. 
Under the circumstances, he had no option but to 
continue to retreat. 

While the Americans were exchanging territory for 
time, the British supply problem was growing more 
acute as their line of communication lengthened. 
Upon arriving at the Hudson, Burgoyne decided to 
remedy his situation by sending a raiding party into 
the Connecticut River country, which, according to 
his civilian adviser, Col. Philip Skene, was rich in 
Tories and livestock. The British commander 
planned the expedition to start at the mouth of the 


Battenkill, move eastward across the Green Moun- 
tains to the Connecticut Valley, remain there long 
enough to encourage local Tories, enlist men for the 
loyalist corps, collect horses and supplies, and 
rejoin the army at Albany in about 2 weeks. As Bur- 
goyne defined the mission, "The objective ... is to 
try the affections of the country, to disconcert the 
councils of the enemy, to mount Riedesel's dra- 
goons, to compleat Peter's [loyalist] corps, and to 
obtain large supplies of cattle, horses, and 

Considering the nature of the country and the pur- 
pose of the raid, the composition of the force 
committed was remarkable. The commander was Lt. 
Col. Friedrich Baum, whose unmounted Brunswick 
dragoons were the nucleus of a force of 250 Ger- 
mans, 50 British marksmen, and about 150 loyalists, 
Canadians, and Indians. Because Baum spoke no 
English, Skene went along as interpreter and adviser 
in local affairs. If the commander, a German officer 
who did not know the country or its inhabitants, was 
ill-suited to lead such an expedition, the decision to 
use dismounted dragoons was the height of folly. 
The mission demanded speed in a wooded, hilly 
region where the roads were nearly impassable to 
troops in any but the driest of weather. The dragoons 
were not used to walking, and their heavy jackboots 
and cumbersome swords not only made it impossible 
for them to move rapidly on foot but caused them 
to tire quickly. 

Baum's force got under way on August 9. Shortly 
afterward, Burgoyne learned that the Americans had 
a large supply depot at Bennington in Vermont. This 
seemed like a godsend to the shortage-plagued 
British army, and it was much nearer at hand than 
the riches of the Connecticut. The commanding gen- 
eral rode after Baum on the 10th and directed him to 
change his objective. 

Defending Bennington were about 1,500 New Hamp- 
shire militiamen under Brig. Gen. John Stark. A 
proud and experienced soldier, Stark had served in 
the famous Rogers' Rangers during the French and 
Indian War. In 1775, he had distinguished himself in 
the Battle of Bunker Hill outside Boston. The next 
year he gained additional laurels in the Canadian 
campaign and at Trenton and Princeton. Angered at 
being passed over for promotion early in 1 777, he 
had resigned from the army and retired to his New 
Hampshire farm. 


When Burgoyne launched his invasion of the north- 
ern frontier, the New Hampshire legislature called 
upon Stark to organize a brigade to help meet the 
British threat. He agreed but only on the condition 
that the brigade consist solely of New Hampshire 
men and that he be allowed to use it as he saw fit, 
independent of the Continental Congress and of the 
Continental Army. In short, he would be accountable 
only to the New Hampshire legislature. The legisla- 
ture accepted Stark's terms and commissioned him 
a brigadier general. 

During the first week of August 1777, Stark's brigade 
lay at Manchester, where the remnants of Seth 
Warner's troops had gathered to reorganize after 
their defeat at Hubbardton. On August 8, after re- 
fusing to join General Schuyler's army on the 
Hudson, Stark marched his men south to Bennington. 
There he learned of Baum's advance, and he sent a 
small force west to delay it. 

On August 15, 3 days after leaving the Hudson, 
Baum's column encountered Stark's detachment at 
Van Schaick's Mill on the Walloomsac River. After 
harassing the British, the Americans withdrew 
toward Bennington and joined their main body. 
Baum set out in pursuit, sending back to Burgoyne 
for reinforcements. Although outnumbered two to 
one, the German colonel did not indicate that he was 
in any real danger. 

The two forces met a few miles west of Bennington, 
where a small bridge crossed the Walloomsac. Stark, 
who had already sent word to Manchester for Warn- 
er's men to join him, posted his troops on the south 
side of the river, while Baum positioned his on the 
north. The British commander knew that the bridge 
was a critical point, and he sent 150 men across the 
river to throw up a breastwork. There, on a rise of 
ground near the crossing, they erected a fortifica- 
tion called the "Tory Redoubt." Canadians and 
loyalists took up positions at the end of the bridge. 
A 3-pounder cannon and about 75 German and 
British marksmen were posted on the right bank. 
Most of Baum's force, along with another 3-pounder, 
occupied a large fieldwork called the "Dragoon's 
Redoubt" on the hill overlooking the river. Three 
smaller works were built in support of the two re- 
doubts, and 50 Jagers occupied a position on the 
riverbank. A third element covered the rear, and the 
Indians assembled on a plateau northeast of the 
Dragoon's Redoubt. 


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On the 15th, Stark's and Baum's men lay in their 
positions, soaked by the heavy rain that continued 
throughout the day. The rain stopped at about noon 
on the 16th, and Stark began a double envelopment, 
or complete encirclement, of Baum's position. The 
right element of this pincers movement, composed 
of 200 men from New Hampshire under the com- 
mand of Col. Moses Nichols, marched about 4 miles 
through the woods and attacked the Dragoon's Re- 
doubt at about 3 p.m. Shortly after Nichols began 
his attack, the left element of about 300 men under 
Col. Samuel Herrick struck the British rearguard. A 
third column of 200 men under Cols. David Hobart 
and Thomas Stickney moved down the road from 
Stark's camp and executed a double envelopment in 
miniature of the Tory Redoubt. At the same time, a 
force of 100 men demonstrated against Baum's front. 

From his post in the Dragoon's Redoubt, Colonel 
Baum had watched contingents of Americans leave 
their encampment. He interpreted these moves as 
part of a retreat; and when small parties of men 
approached his position, he thought they were loy- 
alists seeking protection in his rear. He did not try 
to stop them as they got into position to attack. 

The men in the Tory Redoubt were routed after a 
brief resistance, and the troops covering the bridge 
and riverbank soon broke for the rear. The main 
force in the Dragoon's Redoubt held its ground 
against the attack until their ammunition ran low. 
Then their reserve supply caught fire and exploded, 
and Stark's men closed in to complete the day's 
work. The dragoons, rallying around their old com- 
mander, drew their swords and started to cut their 
way through the Americans. Stark's men lacked 
bayonets, and the Germans were making good prog- 
ress when Baum was mortally wounded. The greatly 
outnumbered dragoons gave up the fight at about 
5 o'clock. 

About the time Baum fell, Lt. Col. Friedrich Brey- 
mann, sent out by Burgoyne in response to Baum's 
earlier call for reinforcements, arrived on the field 
with one battalion each of grenadiers and light in- 
fantry, one company of riflemen, and two cannons. 
Breymann's column had reached Van Schaick's Mill 
at 4:30 p.m. There it met refugees from Baum's com- 
mand who gave confusing and contradictory ac- 
counts of the battle. But the tired Germans had 
continued their march, fighting off militia attempts 
to stop them. 


Stark was in a poor condition to meet Breymann. 
Many of his men had scattered to loot and to chase 
fugitives. But Seth Warner's men had arrived from 
Manchester and they pitched into Breymann's troops 
about 1 mile west of the river crossing. Although 
both forces had made an exhausting march in wet 
and muggy weather, they fought vigorously. When 
the Germans had exhausted nearly all of their am- 
munition, Breymann ordered a retreat; the Americans, 
however, surrounded his troops and the German 
drummers beat a call to parley. This should have 
ended the shooting, but the militia, ignorant of the 
etiquette of war, continued to fire. Breymann, who 
was wounded, and Skene succeeded in leading a 
retreat that saved two-thirds of the relief force. 
Stark, who had lost control of many of his troops, 
wisely ordered the Americans to break contact. 

The Americans reaped a rich harvest in booty, in- 
cluding four cannon, hundreds of muskets, ammu- 
nition wagons, and swords. The British lost 907 dead 
and captured, and Burgoyne would have to do with- 
out the stores at Bennington. The American casual- 
ties are unknown, because Stark never submitted a 
report, but they probably amounted to less than 100. 
The strange victory was a great boost to patriot mo- 
rale at a time when such a boost was desperately 
needed. Perhaps the fortunes of war had begun to 

Almost simultaneous with the British failure at Ben- 
nington was another on the Mohawk River that 
helped to doom Burgoyne's campaign. Part of the 
invasion plan provided for an expedition to move 
down the Mohawk River and meet Burgoyne at 
Albany. That expedition, which left Oswego on Lake 
Ontario on July 26, consisted of about 300 British 
and German regulars, 660 Loyalists, and probably 
800 Indians. The commander was Lt. Col. Barry 
St. Leger, member of an old Anglo-Irish family with 
a long, honorable record of service to the Crown, 
who held a "local" rank of brigadier general. 

The principal American defense work on the Mohawk 
was Fort Stanwix (also known as Fort Schuyler), a 
large earthen, bastioned, and moated installation 
at the river's headwaters and guarding the Great 
Oneida Carrying Place that linked the river with the 
water route to Lake Ontario. The fort was gar- 
risoned by the 400-man 3d New York Continental 
Regiment, 150 men from Col. James Wesson's Mas- 
sachusetts Regiment, and 100 New York militiamen. 


Twenty-eight-year-old Col. Peter Gansevoort was in 
overall command. 

St. Leger's troops arrived at the fort on August 2 
and began siege operations. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. 
Nicholas Herkimer had learned of St. Leger's ad- 
vance and collected the Tryon County militia to go 
to Gansevoort's relief. Enroute, the militia were am- 
bushed on August 6 at Oriskany, about 6 miles 
southeast of the fort, and, after a desperate hand-to- 
hand fight in which Herkimer was mortally wounded, 
withdrew with heavy losses. During the battle, Mari- 
nus Willett, second in command at Fort Stanwix, led 
a sortie against the British and Indian camps. This 
action did not alleviate Herkimer's predicament, but 
Willett's men did destroy or capture a large quantity 
of enemy supplies. The British maintained the siege, 
but they were unable to mount an assault. 

Despite the ease with which St. Leger was able to 
invest Fort Stanwix, General Schuyler had not ne- 
glected the defense of the Mohawk Valley. During 
July he had tried to obtain additional Continental 
troops for the western frontier of his command and 
sought the State's assistance in finding militia units 
that could be sent up the river to oppose just such 
a movement as that undertaken by St. Leger. He had 
also written letters of advice and encouragement to 
General Herkimer and the Tryon County committee 
of safety. 

Schuyler's involvement in the defense of Fort Stan- 
wix took a more concrete form when, beginning 
on August 9, he sent units of Brig. Gen. Ebenezer 
Learned's brigade from Van Schaick's Island, where 
the Mohawk empties into the Hudson, to raise the 
siege. On August 13, Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold left 
the main body of Schuyler's army at Stillwater, 
where it had been since the latter part of July, to 
take command of the relief column. Advancing 
rapidly to German Flats, about 30 miles east of the 
Oriskany battlefield, the Americans captured a num- 
ber of loyalists, among whom was a semi-imbecile 
named Hon Yost Schuyler, a distant relative of Gen- 
eral Schuyler. Sentenced to death as a spy, Hon 
Yost was reprieved on the condition that he spread 
the rumor among St. Leger's Indians that the Ameri- 
cans were advancing in overwhelming numbers. The 
ploy worked. The Indians, who constituted about 
one-half of the British force and who had joined the 
expedition with the expectation of little fighting and 
much loot, deserted wholesale. St. Leger abandoned 


operations and retired to Canada. He would not 
rendezvous with Burgoyne at Albany. 

Except for the militia's conduct at Bennington, there 
had been little about the defense of the Champlain- 
Hudson line to inspire American confidence and 
pride. There had been no heroic stands. In fact, 
since the loss of Skenesboro on July 6, the Ameri- 
cans had usually maintained a distance of several 
miles between the two armies. But the Northern 
Department's army had slowed the pace of the 
British advance by felling trees and destroying 
bridges along the route southward. More impor- 
tant, by exchanging territory for time, the Ameri- 
cans had shortened their own communications 
while lengthening those of the enemy; and they 
had more men and supplies available to them, while 
Burgoyne's resources had passed their maximum. 

On August 14, his army reduced by the absence of 
the relief force under Arnold, Schuyler began to 
withdraw his troops from Stillwater to the conflu- 
ence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. By the time 
they reached there, Schuyler was the object of a 
rising chorus of criticism and abuse. His lack of 
aggressiveness, the way he directed most of the 
defensive operations from the comfort of his Albany 
and Saratoga homes, the loss of Ticonderoga, the 
hostility of New Englanders who distrusted his mili- 
tary ability and political views, and his frigidly aris- 
tocratic manner united to bring upon him the cen- 
sure of civil and military leaders. The Americans 
were afraid that the British were going to win in the 
North. They wanted a more aggressive commander. 

As it had once before, in 1775, the command of the 
Northern Department became the subject of debate 
in Congress. It was an old issue that had long 
troubled civilian leaders and aggravated personal, 
political, and sectional tensions. Once again, it in- 
volved two men who, between them, had borne the 
hopes and frustrations of command on the northern 
frontier — Philip John Schuyler, Hudson Valley patri- 
cian and political leader, and Horatio Gates, former 
British army officer turned Virginia planter. 

Schuyler had been appointed to command the North- 
ern Department in June 1775. Two months later he 
was charged with leading an offensive up the Cham- 
plain-Hudson route against Canada. Plagued by ill- 
health, Schuyler turned over the field command to 
Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery, who was killed in 





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an unsuccessful, climactic attack on Quebec. When 
the invasion failed and the Americans were forced 
to retreat from Canada in the spring of 1776, many 
soldiers and politicians blamed Schuyler for the de- 
feat. Because of the rising criticism of the New York 
commander, Congress on June 16 directed General 
Washington to make General Gates, then adjutant 
general of the Continental Army, commander of the 
American forces in Canada. 

Gates arrived at Schuyler's headquarters in Albany 
believing that he was to exercise complete command 
over the Northern Department. Schuyler refused to 
recognize Gates' jurisdiction, however, pointing out 
that the congressional resolutions and Washington's 
instructions limited Gates' authority to operations in 
Canada. Since the army was then in New York, 
Schuyler maintained that he was still in command 
of the department. Pending clarification of their re- 
spective positions, Gates acquiesced and submitted 
to Schuyler's authority. 

After Congress confirmed Schuyler's interpretation, 
Gates remained in the north as commander at Ti- 
conderoga. As the next ranking senior officer under 
Schuyler, he also functioned as second in command 
of the Northern Department. Both Schuyler and 
Gates tried to adjust to this less-than-ideal situation, 
but their personalities and perspectives made ad- 
justment difficult. Schuyler was an aloof, class-con- 
scious conservative. Although Gates had grown up 
on the fringes of English upper-class society, and 
had been a career officer in the British Army before 
the war, he was more democratic, both socially and 
politically. Sectionalism compounded their diffi- 
culties. New Englanders, whose attitudes toward 
Schuyler ran from critical to hostile, found Gates 
much more congenial and effective. Schuyler's 
much-publicized lack of aggressiveness and the 
military misfortunes attending northern operations 
earned him many critics in the army and Congress 
who considered Gates a more professional officer 
and the kind of commander the important northern 
frontier required. 

Late in 1776, at the direction of Congress, Gates 
led the Pennsylvania and New Jersey troops south 
to join Washington for the campaign in New Jersey. 
For awhile Gates commanded at Philadelphia and 
then returned to his old job as adjutant general. In 
the meantime, Congress had again grown dissatis- 
fied with Schuyler's handling of military affairs in 


New York and was determined to replace him. On 
March 25, 1777, Gates was ordered to assume com- 
mand of the Northern Department, and this time 
there were no ambiguities in the orders. Two months 
later, however, Congress, for reasons uncertain, re- 
versed itself and returned Schuyler to the post. 
Thus it was that Schuyler commanded on the north- 
ern frontier when Burgoyne began his offensive. 

The loss of Ticonderoga and the apparent success 
of the British advance provided Schuyler's critics 
with ammunition to further question his military 
capabilities and to gain converts from among those 
who had supported the general in the past, includ- 
ing some who were looking for a scapegoat upon 
whom to place the blame for American failures. 
After a debate that sometimes revealed as much 
about sectional and political loyalties as it did an 
awareness of military problems, Congress asked 
General Washington to select a new northern com- 
mander. The commander in chief politely declined. 
Congressional delegates then, by secret ballot, 
chose Gates by a vote of 11 States to 2. Schuyler 
afterward demanded a court-martial to clear his 
reputation. Acquitted of charges of incompetence, 
he resigned his commission on April 19, 1779. 

Gates has been charged with intrigue in securing 
the command, but he was no more active in advanc- 
ing his interests than his rival and most other gen- 
eral officers. Just why he should have conspired to 
obtain command in a department where he had al- 
ready suffered enough frustrations to satisfy the 
most masochistic of men is not clear. It certainly did 
not hold much promise of glory; and the prospects 
in mid-summer of 1777 seemed to portend failure, 
not success. There were less controversial and more 
secure posts, and if Gates enjoyed the political in- 
fluence attributed to him by his critics, he could 
have had any one of them. 

Gates took over the Northern Department on August 
1 9, 1 777, and immediately attacked the army's prob- 
lems with professional vigor. He sent letters to the 
executives and legislatures of New York and New 
England asking for militia and supplies. He improved 
the medical services, long a scandal. He tried to 
persuade John Stark, who heretofore refused to be 
bound by any authority other than the New Hamp- 
shire legislature, to integrate his militia into the 
department. When flattery failed, Gates bluntly re- 
minded him that failure to act for the general good 


would tarnish the glory he had won at Bennington. 
The result was that Stark did give limited and spo- 
radic cooperation. 

By early September, Gates matured a strategy for 
defeating Burgoyne. The terrain at the Mohawk- 
Hudson River junction was too flat and open to 
provide good defensive positions. He, therefore, 
decided to move the main part of his army back 
north to Stillwater where he would have a better 
chance of blocking Burgoyne's march to Albany. 
Militia units under Stark and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln 
were directed to operate east and north of Fort Ed- 
ward along the attenuated, vulnerable British line 
of communication. 

At Stillwater, Gates found that the distance between 
the river and the hills was too great to meet his 
requirements for a defensive position, so he moved 
his troops 3 miles northward to the heights behind 
Jotham Bemis' tavern, where a bend in the river 
forced the road to Albany against the base of the 
hills. The Americans arrived at Bemis Heights on 
September 12 and began to build entrenchments that 
blocked the road and fortified the bluffs. Under the 
supervision of Col. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a 31-year- 
old Polish engineer, Gates' men laid out trenches 
along the crest of the bluff above the road. They 
built the main line of entrenchments from a ravine 
behind the bluff to the John Neilson farm on the 
crest of the heights, from whence they extended it 
southwest for about three-quarters of a mile. They 
posted their 22 cannons at strategic points, and 
pickets manned several outposts north of the forti- 
fied camp. The Americans were ready; the next 
move was up to Burgoyne. 


battles at Saratoga 

By the time Burgoyne invaded the northern frontier, 
the land along the Hudson River below Fort Edward 
had been settled and under cultivation for more than 
half a century. The alluvial flats were dotted with 
farms and woodlots that varied in size according to 
the number of persons available to carry out the 
arduous work of clearing and cultivating farms in a 
wooded region. Most of the farmers held indentures 
from owners of old and extensive patents. In many 
cases, these were of such long duration that they 
almost amounted to ownership by the occupant. 

Most of the houses were modest in size and design, 
often one-story or one-and-a-half story buildings 
that resembled the older homes of western New 
England or the Dutch areas to the south. There were 
several sawmills on the streams that empty into the 
river. Most of the houses on the flats were frame, 
similar to John Neilson's home on Bemis Heights. 
An occasional house, like the Woodworth home, 
where Gates had his headquarters during much of 
the American encampment, was more pretentious, 
with a gambrel roof and extensive outbuildings. 
The most impressive home north of the old Schuy- 
ler family seat at "The Flatts" was General 
Schuyler's country house at Old Saratoga (now 
Schuylerville). Barns and outbuildings were usually 
log and less impressive than contemporary German 
types in Pennsylvania. The Dutchmen who moved 
upstream and the Quakers and Congregationalists 
who came up the river or from New England were, 
generally, a thrifty, industrious lot, and they had 
been in the region long enough to make the valley 
floor rural rather than wilderness in character. 

The hills above the valley had been settled later. 
There houses were cruder, often log like the Free- 
man cabin; outbuildings and barns were more primi- 
tive; fields less extensive; and the woods denser. 
This was new country that retained more of the 
wilderness character, and it bordered an even 
wilder back country. 

Villages and hamlets had grown up around the old 
forts and blockhouses at places like Fort Miller, 
Saratoga, and Stillwater. They resembled their 
counterparts in other sections of the northern 
colonies. Most of them had a church or meeting- 
house; many had a school. They were agricultural 
centers; mills, shops, and taverns were their business 
establishments. Most of the inhabitants, including 
the miller, shopkeeper, and tavern-keeper, were also 


farmers and active supporters of the Revolution. 
Several loyalist families lived around Fort Edward 
and there were others scattered about the area; but 
most of the people living along the upper Hudson 
sided with the rebels, not the British. 

Despite the farms and settlements, the dominant 
feature of the country was the vast forest of hard- 
woods and conifers that stretched for hundreds of 
miles north, east, and west of the river. Most of 
these were mature woods, except for old fields that 
had been cultivated by the Indians who comprised 
the Iroquois Confederacy. Every stream junction 
was the site of an ancient campground or village, 
where generations of Indians had lived permanently 
or occasionally. Game, fish, and primitive woodland 
farming had sustained these people until the coming 
of the white man had produced the fur trade, of 
which they were the great entrepreneurs. 

The farms and hamlets were connected by a sur- 
prising number of roads — or what passed for roads. 
They ran in all directions, usually at the whim of the 
people they served. Some went south, connecting 
the area with Albany and the old Dutch villages 
downstream. Others ran roughly east and west away 
from the river toward farms and settlements in the 
hills. Some of the roads running eastward provided 
links with Vermont and western Massachusetts. But 
the Hudson River was the major highway, providing 
the easiest, cheapest, and most reliable north-south 

After the Battle of Bennington, Burgoyne remained 
on the east bank of the Hudson awaiting supplies 
because he knew that when he resumed his advance 
and crossed the river he would have to abandon his 
communications with the north. By September 11, 
he had accumulated 5 weeks' provisions and was 
ready to move. On the 13th he took his army across 
the river above Old Saratoga, about 12 miles north 
of where the Americans were waiting for him. Slowly 
the British moved southward along the river and the 
adjacent road with their boats, baggage, and artil- 
lery. On the morning of the 19th, they were en- 
camped near Sword's house, 3 miles from Bemis 

To understand the events of the next 4 weeks, it is 
necessary to keep Burgoyne's and Gates' objectives 
firmly in mind. Gates had a deceptively simple goal: 
block the British advance. The longer he could do 

Battles at Saratoga 

that the more nearly certain would be Burgoyne's 
failure, for the British general had to reach his ob- 
jective, Albany, before winter. His army could not 
survive on the northern Hudson without supplies 
and shelter. Gates had access to stores in Albany 
and New England, and could remain in his position 
indefinitely. But Bemis Heights was the last good 
defensive position. If Burgoyne got past the heights, 
which he would have to do to get to Albany, there 
was little chance of stopping him on less favorable 

September 19 dawned unusually warm, and a fog 
hung over the river as Burgoyne faced a situation 
that every good commander tries to avoid — being 
forced to act on his opponent's terms. Two choices 
lay before him: he could keep his army in a column 
on the road and try to force his way through the 
American guns on the bluff and the batteries on the 
river flats; or he could attack the Americans in their 
fortified camp on Bemis Heights. Retreat was a third 
alternative, but Burgoyne seems not to have con- 
sidered it. In any event, the militia under Lincoln, 
Stark, and Col. John Brown were ready to turn the 
route to the north into a succession of ambushes; 
and Gates, whose main army outnumbered Bur- 
goyne's by nearly 2,000 men, could pursue the 
British with more ease and safety than they could 
retreat. The 100 miles back to Ticonderoga would 
have been a nightmare, even if Burgoyne succeeded 
in reaching the fort, which was highly unlikely. 

The first alternative offered little or no hope for suc- 
cess. Burgoyne might have been able to drive the 
Americans out of the river batteries, but the fortified 
line on the bluff was secure against an army in the 
valley. Any force marching broadside to that line 
probably could not have survived an attempt to move 
through the narrow passage between the heights 
and the river. 

That left only the second alternative — to get the 
Americans out of their fortified camp and open the 
way to Albany. The tactic that Burgoyne employed 
was a three-column movement toward the American 
position, whose extent and strength were unknown 
to him. General Fraser commanded the right column 
of 2,547 men — composed of the British 24th Regi- 
ment, the German and British light infantry and 
grenadiers, loyalists, and Canadians — and 12 guns. 
The center column consisted of 1,600 men of Gen. 
James Hamilton's division, and the 21st and 62d 





' .. ■ 



Regiments of the British Line; Burgoyne accom- 
panied this element. The left column, numbering 
slightly more than 3,000 men, was commanded by 
General von Riedesel and included the German 
Regiments von Riedesel, von Specht, von Rhetz, 
Erbprinz (Hesse-Hanau), 89 dragoons, 100 light in- 
fantrymen (Chasseurs and Jagers), six battalion 
companies of the British 47th Regiment, and 19 

Fraser's column marched along a road running 
westward from the Sword house to a point 3 miles 
from the river, and then turned southward. Hamil- 
ton's column followed Fraser's a short distance, 
then turned south at the first road and marched to 
the Great Ravine, crossed it, and moved west to a 
point north of the Freeman farm. Riedesel's column, 
the largest of the three, marched out along the 
river road. When the columns reached their as- 
signed positions, a signal gun would coordinate a 
simultaneous movement against the American 

Learning of the enemy's movements, Gates ordered 
Col. Daniel Morgan's Rifle Corps and Maj. Henry 
Dearborn's light infantry battalion to reconnoiterthe 
woods and fields north of the American lines. They 
were followed by the 1st, 2d, and 3d New Hampshire 
Regiments from Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor's brigade, 
which was a part of Benedict Arnold's division. At 
about noon, a part of Morgan's Corps fired upon and 
killed or wounded most of the advance guard of 
Hamilton's column in the Freeman farm clearing. 
The riflemen rushed forward to pursue the survivors 
and ran head-on into the main body of Hamilton's 
division. The British drove Morgan's men into the 
woods south of the farm, where they scattered. 
Morgan was chagrined by the sudden disorganiza- 
tion of his command, but by persistent use of his 
"turkey call" he rallied the men and deployed them 
on the fringe of the farm clearing. 

After a brief lull, during which the New Hampshire 
regiments joined the riflemen, the fight resumed. As 
it intensified, other regiments of Poor's brigade, 
followed by Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Learned's brigade, 
also from Arnold's division, and the 10th Massachu- 
setts Regiment from Brig. Gen. John Paterson's bri- 
gade, were committed. Morgan's riflemen and Poor's 
troops bore the brunt of the fight, while the other 
units faced Fraser and prevented him from going to 
Hamilton's support. 

Battles at Saratoga 

For more than 3 hours the battle surged back and 
forth across the weed-grown, stump-studded farm. 
This was no fight between professionals and raw 
backwoodsmen. The greater part of the Americans 
were veteran Continentals, or regulars, many of 
whom were in their third year of service. The troops 
deployed, attacked, retreated, rallied, and attacked 
again in a disciplined, soldierly manner. After the 
first, brief flight of the riflemen, there was no panic 
as the men of both armies fought an almost classic 
infantry engagement. The British enjoyed an impor- 
tant advantage with their artillery, for the Americans 
brought no cannon onto the field; but so persistently 
did Morgan's marksmen pick off the gunners that 
they were almost wiped out, and the guns were cap- 
tured repeatedly. Because Gates' troops had neither 
linstocks to fire the cannon nor horses to move 
them, the guns were each time retaken and turned 
against the Americans. 

The British regiments upheld the great traditions of 
their service, counter-attacking again and again with 
bayonet against increasingly heavy odds. Time and 
again, Burgoyne exposed himself to enemy fire; his 
chief of artillery and second ranking general officer, 
General Phillips, led the 20th Regiment to the relief 
of the 62d when that unit was being overwhelmed. 
But all the gallantry and skill were inadequate to 
counter the Americans' numerical advantage and 
superior firepower. 

At 5 o'clock, responding to an urgent order from 
Burgoyne, Riedesel started toward the Freeman farm 
with his own regiment, two companies of the Regi- 
ment von Rhetz, and Pausch's Hesse-Hanau Artil- 
lery, leaving about 2,500 men on the river road. He 
reached the battlefield about 6 p.m., just in time to 
throw his fresh troops against the American right 
flank and bolster the British who were slowly retreat- 
ing to the woods north of the farm. The English de- 
livered another bayonet charge, supported by the 
reinforced artillery; and at dusk, the Americans with- 
drew. Their comrades on the left, after a brisk ex- 
change of fire with Fraser's elite corps, joined a 
general retreat to the camp on Bemis Heights. 

Considering the opposing commanders' objectives, 
the Americans had won an important victory. Bur- 
goyne possessed the field, but Gates still blocked 
the route to Albany. 

Neither army made an all-out effort on the 19th. 


Fraser's men were involved in a very limited manner 
against the Americans' left, and most of Riedesel's 
column remained in the valley to exploit an opening 
of the Albany route and to cover the British artillery 
and supplies. Gates retained approximately 5,000 
soldiers in the fortifications above the river and in 
the flats to secure his right flank against any attempt 
to break through the roadblock. 

The soldiers of both armies expected Burgoyne to 
renew the battle on the 20th; however, the British 
commander postponed a second engagement, partly 
because his hospital was taxed by the large number 
of wounded, but mainly because he hoped that Sir 
Henry Clinton, operating on the lower Hudson, would 
exert enough pressure south of Albany to make 
Gates divert troops to cope with that threat. 

For the next 17 days the armies faced each other, 
but they were not idle. The British constructed a 
strong fortified line extending in a shallow arc from 
the Great Redoubt on the bluffs north of the Great 
Ravine to the Freeman farm, where they built the 
Balcarres Redoubt, thence to the Breymann Redoubt 
northwest of the farm. Meanwhile the Americans 
strengthened their own fortifications, collected sup- 
plies and militia, and harassed the enemy so relent- 
lessly that the British slept on their arms in a con- 
stant alert. 

On September 21, within a few hours of Burgoyne's 
decision to wait for word of Clinton's movements 
before resuming operations, the British soldiers 
heard cheering and cannon fire from the American 
camp. Gates' men were celebrating the news that 
General Lincoln's troops under Col. John Brown had 
captured Ticonderoga's outworks and taken nearly 
300 prisoners. Although the British retained the 
great stone fort and the Americans eventually with- 
drew to join the operations against Burgoyne, the 
isolation of the main body of the British army was 
dramatically demonstrated. 

But all was not well within the American camp. 
Within 3 days of the fight on Freeman's farm, a dan- 
gerous quarrel flared between Gates and Benedict 
Arnold. Relations between them had so far been 
cordial, and they had functioned well during the 
critical hours of the 19th when regiments from 
Arnold's command carried the fight to the British 
on Freeman's farm. But when Gates prepared his 
report to Congress, he credited the entire army with 

Battles at Saratoga 

stopping Burgoyne's advance without specifically 
mentioning Arnold and his division. 

The 36-year-old Arnold was not one to take a slight 
lightly, regardless of the circumstances. He had a 
reputation for spectacular leadership and he was 
proud of it. He was also a good divisional com- 
mander, but vain, quick-tempered, suspicious, and 
very sensitive about his "honor" and rank. When 
Arnold learned of the contents of Gates' report, he 
interpreted the omission of any reference to his 
division as a personal affront, a belief in which he 
was probably encouraged by officers hostile to the 
northern commander. His anger was fed by a gen- 
eral order making Morgan's Corps, which had been 
posted on the left wing and which Arnold considered 
part of his division, an independent unit, with its 
commander responsible directly to Gates. 

Never one to suffer silently, Arnold stormed into 
Gates' quarters and accused the general of insulting 
him. The two exchanged recriminations, and Arnold 
threatened to leave the Northern Department. Gates 
told him that he would be free to go as soon as Gen- 
eral Lincoln arrived to take over the division. Arnold 
went to his quarters and wrote a long, bitter letter to 
Gates reviewing his services in the battle of the 
19th, reciting his grievances, and demanding a pass 
to join Washington's army. Gates gave him permis- 
sion to leave, but it was in the form of a letter that 
he was to deliver to John Hancock, President of the 
Continental Congress. Arnold refused to accept the 
letter and demanded a common pass to Philadel- 
phia. Gates gave it to him. Arnold still refused to 
leave camp, defied Gates to replace him, and con- 
tinued to make recommendations concerning the 
conduct of the campaign. The commanding general 
had had enough. He removed Arnold from com- 
mand, gave Lincoln command of the right wing, and 
took over Arnold's division himself. Arnold remained 
in camp without authority and became the center 
of a small clique of Schuyler partisans working 
to discredit Gates for having replaced their former 

The situation was dangerous, not only because it 
threatened the effectiveness of the army's command 
in the presence of the enemy, but also because it 
could bring to the surface personal, regional, and 
social tensions at a time when they might prove 
fatal to the American cause. That the results were 
not disastrous was a tribute to the good sense and 






patriotism of the men and officers in the camp on 
Bemis Heights. 

Meanwhile, the British commander continued to bide 
his time waiting for news that Clinton was ascend- 
ing the Hudson. Burgoyne now knew that St. Leger 
had abandoned the Mohawk expedition and would 
not meet him at Albany. Cut off from the North, he 
hoped desperately for succor from the south. Gone 
were the days when Burgoyne believed that he 
could accomplish his mission unaided. 

Clinton was doing his best to aid Burgoyne, but he 
was handicapped by a paucity of force and indefi- 
nite instructions. When Sir William Howe embarked 
on his campaign against Philadelphia on July 23, 
Sir Henry was left to defend New York City with a 
force of 6,900 infantrymen, of which 3,000 were re- 
cently raised loyalist militia. Clinton had disagreed 
with Howe's plan to attack the American capital, 
fearing that "Mr. Washington would move with 
everything he could collect against General Bur- 
goyne or me, and crush the one or the other 
The British position had a perimeter of 100 miles 
that included large defensive works on three New 
York islands and the Jersey shore. As long as Wash- 
ington's army was within striking distance of the 
city, Clinton could make no move in support of Bur- 
goyne. This was especially true since the American 
commander had dispatched 4,000 men under Gen. 
Israel Putnam to Forts Clinton and Montgomery on 
the Hudson, about 50 miles north of New York City, 
with orders to guard the Highlands. 

Howe was certainly aware of Clinton's predicament 
and left no instructions to assist Burgoyne by taking 
the offensive on the lower reaches of the river. At 
the time, Sir William apparently did not anticipate 
the need for such an offensive. Seven days after 
setting out on his campaign, however, he had sec- 
ond thoughts and wrote Clinton: "If you can make 
any diversion in favor of General Burgoyne's ap- 
proaching Albany, I need not point out the utility of 
such a measure." Clinton did not consider this a 
command. Even though the pressure on New York 
was eased when Washington crossed the Delaware 
to follow Howe's movements, the New York garrison 
was still too weak to open the Highlands. Nor was 
Sir Henry worried about Burgoyne's situation. He 
had received a letter written by the northern com- 
mander at Fort Edward, just before the Battle of 
Bennington, that indicated that he expected to reach 

Battles at Saratoga 

Albany about the 23rd. Burgoyne made no reference 
to needing or expecting help from the south. 

By the end of August, however, the situation had 
changed. On September 11, Clinton learned of the 
British disaster at Bennington and that the Canadian 
army was still many miles north of its objective. He 
immediately wrote to Burgoyne: "You know my good- 
will and are not ignorant of my poverty. If you think 
2000 men can assist you effectively, I will make a 
push at [Fort] Montgomery in about ten days." Bur- 
goyne's reply, dated September 23, 4 days after the 
battle at Freeman's farm, stated that "an attack or 
even the menace of an attack upon Fort Montgom- 
ery must be of great use, as it will draw away great 
part of [Gates'] force. ... Do it, my dear friend, 
directly." But the movement upon which Burgoyne 
came to place so much desperate hope was to be a 
demonstration only, a limited feint to take pressure 
off the Canadian army and not a rescue operation, 
to be undertaken when expected reinforcements 
arrived from Europe. 

The reinforcements arrived on September 24, about 
the same time Clinton learned that Washington had 
withdrawn a part of Putnam's force for service else- 
where. It was now possible for the British to make a 
move against the Highlands. On the first favorable 
tide, October 3, Sir Henry hurried northward with 
3,000 men to attack the Highland forts. By then he 
knew that Burgoyne's provisions were low and that 
his communications with Canada had been severed. 

The expedition reached Verplanck's Point, across 
the Hudson from Stony Point, on October 5. The 
small American garrison fled in confusion. While 
Clinton was preparing to land his troops, an officer 
arrived from Burgoyne with news that gave a new 
twist to the situation. The position of the Canadian 
army was desperate. Losses had reduced it to less 
than half the enemy's strength, and provisions would 
not last beyond the 20th. Burgoyne claimed that he 
could force his way to Albany but was uncertain 
about supplies when he got there. Before he under- 
took such a move, he wanted to know jf Clinton 
could open communications and supply him from 
the south. He asked for explicit orders to attack the 
enemy on his front or to retreat to Canada. 

Sir Henry, gravely concerned about Burgoyne's 
situation, resolved to do what he could to relieve 
the pressure on the Canadian army. At the same 


time, however, Clinton was irritated by Burgoyne's 
effort to throw upon him the responsibility of decid- 
ing what course to take. In his reply, Clinton de- 
clared that he had no orders from Howe relating to 
the Canadian army, that he could not presume to 
give orders to Burgoyne, who had an independent 
command, and could do no more than exert pres- 
sure on the Americans in his behalf. 

General Putnam had been weakened by having to 
make detachments from his force (the most recent a 
reinforcement for Washington after the Battle of 
Brandywine) and he had only about 1,200 Conti- 
nentals and 300 poorly armed militia. After the 
Americans evacuated Verplanck's Point, Putnam 
quickly withdrew 4 miles into the hills and ordered 
reinforcements from Forts Clinton and Montgomery 
to join him. This was precisely the objective that 
Clinton had intended to achieve by his demonstra- 
tion at Verplanck's. Leaving about 1,000 men at the 
Point to mislead Putnam, Clinton crossed to the west 
bank of the river and marched his infantry through 
the hills, surprised the two forts, and stormed them 
with bayonets. The Americans lost both of the forts 
and a large number of stores, and the flotilla guard- 
ing obstructions in the river was unable to escape 
northward against the wind and was burned. 

On October 7 Clinton broke through the log boom 
the Americans had stretched across the river and 
routed the small garrison at Fort Constitution near 
West Point. The next day, he wrote to Burgoyne: 
''Nous y void and nothing now between us but 
Gates. I sincerely hope this little success may facili- 
tate your operations ... I heartily wish you suc- 
cess." Clinton's message never reached the northern 
commander. The messenger carrying it was cap- 
tured and hanged after the note was recovered from 
a silver bullet he had swallowed. In any case, Sir 
Henry's encouraging note would have arrived too 
late. The day before it was written, Burgoyne had 
fought his second engagement with Gates — and lost. 

Knowing nothing of Clinton's plans other than the 
proposed attack on the Highland forts at some fu- 
ture, unspecified date, Burgoyne, in his fortified 
camp on the Freeman farm, had decided in early 
October that he could not wait much longer for the 
expected relief. Plagued by severe supply shortages 
and faced with advancing autumn, he knew he must 
act soon. On October 4, the day after his men went 
on reduced rations and the day after Clinton began 

Battles at Saratoga 

his movement northward, Burgoyne called a council 
of war and made a startling proposal. He would 
leave 800 men to guard the supplies and use the rest 
of his army to attack Gates' left and rear. His sub- 
ordinates were shocked. They argued that so much 
time would be required to make such a flanking 
movement that the Americans could overwhelm the 
800 men left in camp, seize the supplies, repulse the 
attack, and cut off the retreat north. The conference 
adjourned without reaching a decision. 

The next day, Baron von Riedesel recommended 
that the army be withdrawn to the mouth of the 
Battenkill, where communications with the lakes 
might be reestablished while awaiting news from 
Clinton. Then, he argued, if no help came from the 
south, the army would be in a position to retreat. On 
the face of it, the proposal had merit, but Burgoyne 
replied that a withdrawal would be disgraceful and 
futile. The Americans would surely interpret it as a 
victory, and this, coupled with their numerical and 
tactical advantages, would give them the psycho- 
logical incentive to pursue and intercept the British 
before they reached a position of safety. Burgoyne 
was not ready to hazard such a retreat. He was 
determined to make one more attempt to drive the 
Americans off Bemis Heights. 

On October 7, he revived his proposal of the 4th in 
a new form. Instead of committing all but 800 men 
to a flanking attack, he would organize a reconnais- 
sance in force to probe the American position from 
the high ground west of the Neilson farm, in the 
angle formed by the apex of Gates' camp. If condi- 
tions proved favorable, he would then launch an all- 
out attack on the 8th. If an attack were not feasible, 
he would then try to save his army by retreating. It 
was a gamble, but Burgoyne was an old gamester 
and a proud, brave man who feared fighting against 
great odds less than he did being picked to pieces 
while on the run. 

The probing force was carefully chosen for mobility 
and shock power. From Simon Fraser's Advanced 
Corps came Capt. Alexander Fraser's rangers, the 
British grenadiers and light infantry (Burgoyne's elite 
units), and the 24th Regiment. Also from the Ad- 
vanced Corps came the German Jagers, chasseurs, 
and grenadiers, men who would have been the pride 
of any European army. Men from the Hanau, Rhetz, 
Riedesel, and Specht Regiments were drafted from 
Riedesel's division. Hamilton's division contributed 


men from the British 9th, 20th, 21st, and 62nd Regi- 
ments who had borne the heat of battle on Septem- 
ber 19th. Eight cannon served by 107 artillerymen 
accompanied the column. A total of 1,723 officers 
and men marched out of camp, leaving 5,423 to man 
the fortifications and await the outcome of the prob- 
ing action. 

About noon, Generals Fraser, Phillips, and Riedesel 
led the column out of camp. When their advance 
guard reached a point west of the Barber farm on 
the northern slope of the Middle Ravine, the column 
halted. Some of the officers climbed onto the roof of 
the farm cabin and tried to scan the American works 
through telescopes. Several soldiers foraged for 
grain in the abandoned fields, and some Americans 
believed that the British were only on a foraging 
expedition. The British front, which extended from 
the woods west of the Barber farm to the southern 
fringe of the Freeman farm, was mostly open, but the 
flanks rested in woods and were vulnerable to 
attack. James Wilkinson, the American deputy 
adjutant general, reported the British position to 
Gates, and the commander told him to order Morgan 
to "begin the game." 

The American attack, which opened between 2:30 
and 3 p.m., was classic in its direct simplicity. Col- 
onel Morgan's corps of riflemen and light infantry 
struck the British right, composed of Fraser's light 
infantry and the 24th Regiment. Col. Enoch Poor's 
brigade attacked the British grenadiers and the 
units from Hamilton's division. Ebenezer Learned's 
target was the Germans in the center of the column. 

Poor's men soon overwhelmed the greatly outnum- 
bered grenadiers, whose commander, Maj. John 
Dyke Acland, fell badly wounded. They then struck 
Hamilton's men, who were strung out in a thin line 
from the Quaker Springs Road to near the southern 
end of the Balcarres Redoubt. Morgan's corps 
opened fire from the woods west of the Barber farm, 
and Fraser's veterans began falling before the dead- 
ly accuracy of the Pennsylvania and Virginia rifle- 
men. Despite the soldiers' dogged courage and the 
skill of their officers, Fraser's men were forced to 
withdraw across the rear of the Germans and de- 
ployed parallel to the road to Quaker Springs. As 
Morgan's men rolled back the British right, Fraser 
rode among his men, encouraging and rallying them 
to maintain their ranks, keep up their fire, and make 
the Americans pay dearly for every foot of ground. 


He knew that he had to preserve the right flank long 
enough to allow the center and left to make an or- 
derly withdrawal. But the Scotsman's efforts were in 
vain. He could not stop the turning movement. Just 
before his men reached the road, Simon Fraser fell 
mortally wounded. His command passed to a fellow 
Scot, Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Balcarres. 

While Morgan and Poor drove back the enemy's 
flanks, Learned's brigade, soon supported by Brig. 
Gen. Abraham Ten Broeck's brigade of New York 
militia and a regiment from Jonathan Warner's bri- 
gade of Massachusetts militia, struck the Germans, 
who, with both flanks exposed, stubbornly fought 
them off. In the midst of the attack, Benedict Arnold 
rode onto the field and, though he had no command, 
led a second assault that caused the Germans to 
join the general retreat into the Balcarres Redoubt. 

By 5 p.m. the probing column had lost eight cannons 
and suffered more than 400 casualties. Burgoyne's 
plan was thwarted, but behind the strong walls of 
the Balcarres Redoubt, his soldiers were still capa- 
ble of putting up a stiff fight, as Poor's men soon 
discovered. After the Germans were routed, Arnold 
left Learned's troops and seized command of Poor's. 
Through the woods behind the Coulter and Freeman 
farms, Poor's men pursued the retreating enemy. 
They poured over the "Bloody Knoll," overran its 
small outpost, and swarmed into the open ground in 
front of the Balcarres Redoubt. A withering fire met 
them as they charged, in a series of futile and costly 
assaults, into the abatis covering the British front. 

While the British and Germans were retreating into 
their fortifications, fresh American troops arrived 
from Bemis Heights. Brig. Gen. John Paterson's 
brigade, one of John Glover's regiments, and the 5th 
and 6th Massachusetts Regiments from John Nixon's 
brigade brought the number of Americans on the 
battlefield to more than 8,000. 

While Poor's men fought and died in front of the 
strongest British position, Learned's and Morgan's 
men, reinforced by the fresh Massachusetts regi- 
ments, deployed to attack Burgoyne's right flank, 
consisting of 200 Germans in the Breymann Redoubt 
and two companies of Canadian militia in log build- 
ings between the redoubt and the Freeman farm. 
The Canadians were soon driven from their posts, 
exposing the left and rear of Colonel Breymann's 
position. The Americans then mounted a massive 

Battles at Saratoga 


attack on the Germans. While most of the men 
stormed the front of the redoubt, a part of Leamed's 
command and some riflemen swept through the gap 
left by the Canadians and into the Germans' rear. 
During the final minutes of the attack, as remnants 
of Breymann's corps made their last desperate 
stand, Arnold, who had heard the firing on his left 
and abandoned Poor's troops, joined a party of rifle- 
men firing into the Germans from the rear. Just as 
the defense collapsed, he suffered a leg wound (now 
memorialized by the famous "Arnold Monument" on 
the battlefield). 

Possession of the Breymann Redoubt opened the 
right and rear of Burgoyne's camp to the Americans. 
A German "forlorn hope" attempt to recapture the 
fortifications failed, and its leader, Lt. Col. Ernst 
Ludwig von Speth, and 10 of his men were captured. 
As darkness ended the day's fighting, the British 
situation was desperate. The army lay in an inde- 
fensible position in the presence of a numerically 
superior enemy, more than 5,000 of whom were 
fresh troops. Leaving their campfires burning, the 
soldiers of the royal army withdrew under cover of 
darkness to the Great Redoubt on the heights north 
of the Great Ravine and overlooking the river road, 
along which lay their hospital, artillery park, and 
supply depot. 

All the next day, Burgoyne's weary, badly mauled 
men rested in a strong position. The Americans 
occupied the former British camp and kept up a 
steady cannonade. Shortly before sunset, a party of 
British and German officers slowly ascended the 
hill to the Great Redoubt, bearing the body of Simon 
Fraser to his grave. As the Royal Artillery chaplain, 
Edward Brudenel, intoned the Church of England's 
solemn Burial Office, American cannon made even 
that solemn duty hazardous. 

The time had come when Burgoyne must make a 
decision he dreaded more than battle. He had been 
decisively defeated in the field, and only the rapid 
evacuation of his fortified camp to a strong tem- 
porary position had saved his army. He faced two 
alternatives: surrender or retreat. His pride and the 
fading, desperate hope that he could still profit from 
an aggressive move by Clinton persuaded him to try 
to buy time by retreating. If all else failed, perhaps 
the Americans might yet commit some tactical 
blunder that would permit him to escape. The old 
gambler was still fighting the odds. 

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Battles at Saratoga 

Gates had accomplished his primary goal of stop- 
ping the British advance; now he had an opportunity 
to capture Burgoyne's whole army. He had always 
appreciated the necessity of denying his opponent 
access to the north and east and had done every- 
thing in his power to accomplish that end. Fortu- 
nately for the Americans, their growing numerical 
strength gave Gates enough manpower to isolate 
Burgoyne from his northern base. During the first 
week of October, he posted militia on the east bank 
of the Hudson in the enemy's rear and received rein- 
forcements from several areas. Stark and his militia 
reappeared, captured the small garrison at Fort 
Edward, and moved down the river toward Saratoga. 
More New Hampshiremen under Brig. Gen. Jacob 
Bailey occupied an entrenched position along the 
road that ran north of Fort Edward. Brig. Gen. John 
Fellows with a brigade of Massachusetts militia 
moved up the east side of the Hudson, crossed the 
river, and entrenched at Old Saratoga. Thus, when 
Burgoyne decided to retreat, there were more than 
4,000 Americans behind him and almost 12,000 in 
front of him. He summed up the situation with these 
words: "A defeated army was to retreat from an 
enemy flushed with success, much superior in front, 
and occupying strong posts in the country behind. 
We were equally liable upon that march to be at- 
tacked in the front, flank, or rear." 

At 9 p.m., about 3 hours after the burial of its old 
leader, Fraser's Advanced Corps marched out of the 
camp below the Great Redoubt; 7 hours later, the 
last unit of the British army was on the road north. 
After a halt at Dovegat (now Coveville), Burgoyne's 
soldiers slogged about 4 miles through a cold 
autumn rain toward Saratoga, where General Fel- 
lows' militia barred the way to the river crossing. 
Col. Nicholas Sutherland of the 47th Regiment urged 
Burgoyne to let him attack the Americans, whose 
security was temptingly lax. Because the regiment 
could muster only 250 men to attack Fellows' 1,300 
in a prepared position, Burgoyne decided that the 
odds were too great and refused to grant the colo- 
nel's request. Instead, he kept his troops together as 
he approached Saratoga. Fellows did not wait for 
the British to attack; he withdrew across the river 
and entrenched along the crest of the hills, covering 
the ford over which the road crossed. 

While Burgoyne's men dragged themselves north- 
ward, Gates' soldiers drew and cooked rations, re- 
plenished their ammunition, and prepared to pursue 


the enemy. Their pace seemed almost leisurely, but 
there were reasons for this. The best troops, the 
Continentals, had borne the brunt of the fighting and 
needed rest if they were to be effective as flankers, 
an especially fatiguing duty; and rest was even more 
necessary if they should have to fight another 
pitched battle. The militia seldom marched in large 
numbers with much dispatch. The wretched weath- 
er slowed every preparation. Gates did have parties 
operating on the British left flank, but rapid move- 
ment was equally impossible for both armies. 

The American advanced guard reached the Fish Kill 
at about 4 p.m. on the 10th and found the enemy 
encamped on the heights north of the creek. Maj. 
Ebenezer Stevens immediately placed cannon on the 
flats south of General Schuyler's country house and 
opened fire on the British batteaux and working 

If the opposing armies had been approximately 
equal, Burgoyne's position would have been strong. 
Just north of the Fish Kill a ridge stretches north- 
ward, breaks sharply to the east, and flattens into a 
plateau on the west. The soldiers threw up entrench- 
ments along this ridge, working feverishly from the 
chill fall mornings until past the early dusk under 
constant fire from American artillery and small arms. 
Despite the recent defeat, short rations, and physical 
privation and discomfort, they were still capable of 
putting up a defense that would do honor to reputa- 
tions won on European battlefields. 

The day after the Americans reached Saratoga, the 
British burned the buildings of the Schuyler estate 
to prevent Gates' soldiers from using them for cover. 
The same day, Burgoyne sent a strong detachment 
to a road that ran west of the river to a crossing near 
Fort Edward, but recalled it in anticipation of a con- 
certed move against the Americans based upon 
vague news of Clinton's activities. 

When the road repair party moved out of the British 
camp, Gates was convinced that most of the enemy 
was evacuating, and he ordered an advance for the 
next morning. When it became apparent that most 
of Burgoyne's troops were still in position and pre- 
pared to defend themselves, the Americans broke 
contact, surrounded the encampment, and settled 
down to what amounted to a siege of the position. 

Gates was under pressure from some of his staff and 

Battles at Saratoga 

civil leaders in Albany to attack Burgoyne's camp 
and bring the campaign to an immediate close. Some 
of the more impetuous officers were eager to add 
lustre to their laurels by attacking an enemy whose 
weakness seemed to guarantee an easy victory. 
More responsible men believed that an attack should 
be made for other reasons. Of the 20,436 effectives 
in Gates' army, more than 2,000 were militia. When 
their terms of service expired, these men would go 
home, as the 2d Hampshire County Regiment of 
Massachusetts militia had done on October 14th. 
While it was true that the Americans outnumbered 
Burgoyne's troops by slightly more than two to one, 
many of the militia, because of their inexperience, 
were of limited value. Nevertheless, their presence 
helped give the Americans a comforting sense of 
superiority while impressing upon the enemy a feel- 
ing of despair. Another factor, especially among the 
civilians, was concern about Clinton's operations. If 
that threat grew and materialized, and if the militia 
departed, the opportunity to destroy Burgoyne might 
be lost. 

Sir Henry's activities were in everyone's thoughts — 
giving Burgoyne his last, desperate hope of salva- 
tion and disturbing Gates' peace of mind. Clinton 
had no intention of moving on to Albany after taking 
the Highland forts, but neither commander at Sara- 
toga knew that; and the events taking place afer the 
capture of those works gave color to the belief that 
Sir Henry had more ambitious purposes in mind. On 
October 13, he ordered Gen. John Vaughan with 
1,700 men, supported by a flotilla under Sir James 
Wallace, "to feel his way to General Burgoyne and 
do his utmost to assist his operations or even to join 
him if required." Vaughan and Wallace burned 
Esopus (now Kingston) on the 16th and moved up- 
stream to Livingston Manor, about 45 miles south of 
Albany. They got no further. At Vaughan's approach, 
civilian leaders in Albany importuned Gates to rein- 
force General Putnam's troops defending the town. 
Gates responded by sending them soldiers from 
Fort Stanwix and 553 men of General Ten Broeck's 
militia brigade from his own army. When the British 
reached Livingston Manor they found Americans 
blocking their path. Vaughan notified Clinton that he 
could not get through to Burgoyne. In the meantime, 
Clinton had received orders from General Howe, 
who had run into more opposition than expected at 
Philadelphia, to abandon the Highlands and send re- 
inforcements to Pennsylvania. Vaughan was ordered 
to withdraw. 


Burgoyne, who knew much less about what was hap- 
pening to the south than did Gates, clung to his 
hopes. But as the days passed, those hopes were 
more difficult to sustain in the face of the knowledge 
that rations would be exhausted on the 20th, that 
there was not enough drinking water, and that many 
of the soldiers were without shelter and under the 
constant fire from an increasingly stronger army. 

Burgoyne convened a council of war on October 12, 
reviewed the situation in starkly realistic detail, and 
requested the opinions of his generals on the follow- 
ing propositions: (1) to await an attack; (2) to attack 
the enemy; (3) to retreat with artillery and baggage; 

(4) to retreat at night without artillery and baggage; 

(5) to march rapidly to Albany if the enemy, by ex- 
tending to his left, should leave his rear open. The 
fourth proposition seemed the only practical one, 
but it was eliminated when reconnaissance revealed 
that it would be impossible to accomplish. 

A second council met on the 13th, and the members 
decided that their situation justified the seeking of 
honorable terms for a capitulation. Burgoyne then 
addressed a letter to Gates, and negotiations were 
begun on the morning of the 14th at Gates' head- 
quarters. During the discussion, the American com- 
mander presented to Col. Robert Kingston, Bur- 
goyne's representative, terms for unconditional 
surrender. Burgoyne rejected them. The British 
commander then presented his own terms. To 
everyone's surprise, Gates agreed to most of the de- 
tails with the stipulation that the surrender must be 
accomplished by 2 o'clock that afternoon (the 15th). 
Burgoyne grew suspicious and quickly surmised that 
Gates' sudden eagerness to conclude negotiations 
must mean that Clinton's expedition was approach- 
ing Albany. 

If this were true, Burgoyne knew that his wisest 
course would be to delay negotiations long enough 
for Clinton to come to his relief or bring sufficient 
pressure upon the Americans to force Gates to raise 
the siege. He convened another council, which de- 
cided to inform the American commander that, while 
the basis of the treaty was agreed to, the British 
needed more time to study some minor matters. 
Burgoyne proposed to have two commissioners from 
each army meet to resolve the differences in terms. 

The commissioners met on the afternoon of the 16th 
near one of General Schuyler's sawmills on the 

Battles at Saratoga 

south side of the Fish Kill. After lengthy discussion, 
they signed and exchanged articles of capitulation. 
The British demurred at the term "capitulation," and 
the "Articles of Capitulation" became the "Articles 
of Convention." Gates hoped that his concession, 
which he did not feel to be important except to the 
defeated enemy's pride, would bring the negotia- 
tions to a close. 

His hopes were premature. Burgoyne continued 
to play for time. Unaware that Vaughan had been 
stopped south of Albany, the British commander 
called another council and asked his generals two 
questions: could he honorably break the convention, 
and if the fragmentary and vague news of Clinton's 
operations to the south were true, did this improve 
their situation? The generals' answer to both ques- 
tions was negative. Burgoyne and his staff then 
worked out a compromise that resulted in a letter to 
Gates accusing him of sending a sizable detachment 
of troops to Albany during the negotiations, that this 
had reduced the numerical superiority that had ini- 
tially prompted Burgoyne to negotiate and therefore 
nullified the convention. To confirm this, Burgoyne 
requested that two British officers be permitted to 
check on the American strength. Gates rejected 
Burgoyne's reasoning and said that such a request 
was "inadmissable," that it was up to Burgoyne to 
ratify or dissolve the treaty, and that he expected an 
immediate and decisive reply. After another council 
of war, the British commander signed the "Conven- 
tion of Saratoga" acknowledging defeat and deliver- 
ing up his army to the Americans. 

The surrender took place on October 17. The day 
dawned clear and cool, and the forests of the north- 
ern Hudson Valley were at the height of their au- 
tumnal splendor when Gates' soldiers paraded on 
the old military road south of the Fish Kill. Few of 
them were in uniform, but several of the British testi- 
fied to their good physical condition and soldierly 
bearing. These men had earned a place in history 
vouchsafed to few others. They had defeated a 
brave, well-trained, professionally led army, and they 
were about to witness the first surrender of a British 
army on American soil. 

At the appointed hour, Burgoyne, his general offi- 
cers, and their staffs rode across the ford, between 
the American soldiers drawn up on both sides of the 
road, past the colonial Dutch Church to Gates' head- 
quarters, where salutes were exchanged. Meanwhile, 


north of the creek, on the parade of ruined Fort 
Hardy, the men who had fought faithfully against 
great odds laid down their arms, some with grim dig- 
nity, others with obvious grief and resentment. They 
too marched over the ford, past the silent lines of 
victorious Americans. As upon a signal, in the pres- 
ence of both armies, Burgoyne tendered his sword 
to the American general who had once been a Brit- 
ish major. Gates returned the sword; and while the 
"Convention Army" marched away to captivity, the 
principal officers on both sides retired to a marquee 
to dine. 

The terms of the convention stipulated that Bur- 
goyne's army would be returned to Europe, but be- 
cause this would have freed other units to fight in 
America, the Continental Congress interposed a 
succession of objections and the terms were not 
kept. General Burgoyne returned to England on pa- 
role and other officers were exchanged, but the rest 
of the army was taken first to Massachusetts and 
eventually to near Charlottesville, Va., and interned 
for the duration of the war. Some of the soldiers, 
especially among the Germans, remained in 

Fruits of Victory 

The Convention of Saratoga took one of Britain's 
armies out of the war, and with it went her prospects 
of bringing the conflict to an early end through ma- 
jor land campaigns. Gone were the ill-defined hopes 
of Burgoyne, Howe, and the Cabinet for a victory in 
1777 by capturing the American capital, invading the 
northern interior, and somehow uniting the two Brit- 
ish armies to crush the rebellion. The King's minis- 
ters and generals reassessed the task in America 
and shifted their strategy to an emphasis on naval 
warfare and the capture of more limited strategic 
targets. The center of the war moved to the sea and 
the South, and the conflict in the North stalemated 
while the British undertook a war of attrition aimed 
at eroding the American will to fight. 

The British achieved only one of the goals for 1777: 
Sir William Howe's capture of Philadelphia. But that 
success was made hollow by the failure of the north- 
ern campaign and the fruits of that failure. British 
plans suffered for the lack of a unifying concept. 
They rested upon the reckless premise that Howe 
could safely operate in Pennsylvania while a sub- 
stantial garrison was immobilized on Manhattan and 
while Burgoyne was left to his own devices, each 
isolated from the others. The two campaigns were 
developed independently by Howe in New York and 
Burgoyne in England. They were out of contact with 
one another and gave almost no thought to what 
should have been their major concern — how to 
coordinate their offensives. But both men focused 
almost exclusively on his own undertaking, and the 
two plans were as different as their creators. 

Burgoyne's called for speed and audacity in moving 
a relatively small force by a predetermined route to 
a goal that was not clearly defined; the terms "co- 
operation" and "communication" could be, and were 
in many instances, interpreted differently by their 
author, Burgoyne, and by Howe, Clinton, and Ger- 
main. Howe's plan called for deliberately moving a 
large army to a fixed geographical and political 
objective by a route that was not agreed upon until 
the last possible moment. Burgoyne was absorbed 
with reaching Albany and not with what might hap- 
pen after he got there, beyond vaguely expecting to 
open communications and cooperate with Howe. 
Howe was obsessed with capturing Philadelphia and 
not with what might happen on the Hudson or how 
he would employ the troops from Canada once they 
reached Albany. 


Because war narrows the perspective of field com- 
manders, they frequently suffer from occupational 
myopia. But they are not sovereign. Government is 
responsible, theoretically at least, for seeing the 
whole picture and planning accordingly — assigning 
priorities, allocating resources, and requiring its 
military servants to integrate their energies. This 
responsibility rested with the Cabinet in general and 
Lord Germain in particular. The colonial secretary 
failed to discharge that responsibility. He knew that 
Howe intended to go to Pennsylvania. Despite warn- 
ings from Clinton, the lack of coordination between 
Burgoyne and Howe did not concern Germain early 
enough to make him effective in imposing unity on 
their campaigns. 

Germain failed to explain Burgoyne's mission to 
Howe, contenting himself with sending that command- 
er a copy of the letter to Carleton that contained 
Burgoyne's instructions. He did not raise the subject 
of an integrated effort with Howe until the middle of 
May, and then it was too late; by the time Howe 
received Germain's letter, he was already on his way 
to Philadelphia. Contrary to a persistent tradition, 
there were no "lost orders" directing Howe to 
ascend the Hudson; such orders never existed. 
Germain was confident that the two armies could 
shift for themselves until autumn and then, with 
Albany and Philadelphia secured, somehow estab- 
lish contact and coordinate their future moves. 

Despite the defects in British planning, the Ameri- 
cans did not win by default. Their retarding of Bur- 
goyne's advance and their successes at Bennington 
and Fort Stanwix certainly contributed to the victory 
at Saratoga. But, Burgoyne might still have reached 
Albany if it had not been for the sound strategy that 
Horatio Gates developed after he took command 
of the Northern Department. He husbanded his re- 
sources and built up an overwhelming force that 
gave him the flexibility required to cope with Bur- 
goyne's threat by isolating him and forcing him to 
fight on American terms. That strategy was ably 
executed by the army's general officers and regi- 
mental commanders. Finally, the Americans' great 
numerical superiority enabled them to defeat the 
soldiers of the royal army in two engagements 
that were fought according to standard European 

Saratoga was not a victory of frontier tactics over 
those of the Old World. Both armies had light troops 

Fruits of Victory 

that used concealment and marksmanship in a man- 
ner dear to the imagination of romantics. Morgan's 
riflemen and Dearborn's light infantrymen had their 
counterparts in the British rangers, Balcarres' light 
infantry, and the German Jagers. However, the brunt 
of the fight was borne by the majority of regiments 
in both armies who deployed and fought in line, fir- 
ing by volley in the only manner that made their mus- 
kets effective. 

The Americans' victory at Saratoga boosted their 
morale and profoundly affected their military for- 
tunes by internationalizing the war. After months of 
covertly supporting the Americans while weighing the 
pros and cons of becoming a belligerent, France's 
drift toward open involvement in the American con- 
flict had reached a point by September 1777 where 
she was about to go to war against her ancient rival. 
The Declaration of Independence and the Ameri- 
cans' refusal to renounce that document as a condi- 
tion for peace had, for the time being at least, ruled 
out the probability of a reconciliation between Brit- 
ain and the rebellious colonies. The question of 
whether the Americans would be effective military 
allies had yet to be answered. 

Despite the fall of Philadelphia, the French were 
encouraged by Howe's failure to destroy Washing- 
ton's army in Pennsylvania, and they were especially 
impressed by the American commander in chief's 
audacity in the Battle of Germantown. Further en- 
couragement came from a favorable report on the 
condition and morale of the Continental Army sub- 
mitted by Gen. Johann de Kalb, a German who on 
September 15 became a major general in the Amer- 
ican army. Gates' victory at Saratoga was even 
more persuasive proof that the Americans would 
and could fight. 

Soon after receiving news of the American success, 
the French government decided that it was time to 
join the rebels in their fight against Great Britain. On 
January 8, 1778, the French foreign minister, the 
Comte de Vergennes, notified Benjamin Franklin, 
Silas Deane, and Authur Lee, the American envoys 
in Paris, that his government was prepared to enter 
into an alliance. On February 6, the three American 
representatives and Conrad Alexandre Gerard, 
France's minister to the United States, signed a 
treaty of amity and commerce recognizing American 
independence. This was followed that same day by 
a treaty of alliance that brought France into the war 


as an active belligerent. In 1779, Spain, France's ally, 
declared war on England. The American Revolution 
had ceased being merely a family fight; it had be- 
come an international war. French and Spanish 
credits, money, supplies, ships, and men, without 
which American success would have been in doubt, 
supported the United States and helped to pave the 
way to ultimate victory on October 19, 1781, when 
Lt. Gen. Charles Lord Comwallis surrendered to a 
Franco-American army at Yorktown, Va. Saratoga 
had borne great fruit. 


1. Organization of the American Army, 
September 19, 1777 

General Officers: 

Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates 
Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold 

Col. Daniel Morgan's Corps: 

Morgan's Rifle Corps [Regiment] 
Maj. Henry Dearborn's Light Infantry 

Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor's Brigade: 

1st New Hampshire Regiment, Col. Joseph Cilley 
2d New Hampshire Regiment, Lt. Col. W inborn Adams 
3d New Hampshire Regiment, Col. Alexander Scammell 
2nd New York Regiment, Col. Philip Van Cortlandt 
4th New York Regiment, Col. Henry Beekman 
Col. Thaddeus Cook's Regiment, Connecticut Militia 
Col. Jonathan Latimore's Regiment, Connecticut Militia 

Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Learned 's Brigade: 

2d Massachusetts Regiment, Col. John Bailey 
8th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Michael Jackson 
9th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. James Wesson 
Col. James Livingston's New York Regiment 
(formerly 1st Canadian) 

Brig. Gen. John Glover's Brigade: 

1st Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Joseph Vose 
4th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. William Shepard 
13th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Edward Wiggle sworth 
15th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Timothy Bigelow 
2d Albany County Regiment, New York Militia, 

Col. Abraham Wemple 
17th Albany County Regiment, New York Militia, 

Col. William Whiting 
Col. Morris Graham's Regiment of Dutchess 

and Ulster County New York Militia 

Brig. Gen. John Nixon's Brigade: 

3d Massachusetts Regiment, Col. John Greaton 
5th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Rufus Putnam 
6th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Thomas Nixon 
7th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Ichabod Alden 

Brig. Gen. John Paterson's Brigade: 

10th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Thomas Marshall 
11th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Benjamin T upper 


12th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Samuel Brewer 
14th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Gamaliel Bradford 


Connecticut Light Horse, Ma]. Elijah Hyde 

Sheldon's Light Dragoons, 2d Troop, Lt. Thomas Seymour 


Independent Battalion, Ma]. Ebenezer Stevens 


Col. Jonathan Baldwin's Detachment of Artificers 

2. Organization of the American Army, 
October 7, 1777 

General Officers: 

Ma]. Gen. Horatio Gates 
Ma]. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln 

Col. Daniel Morgan's Corps: 

Morgan's Rifle Corps [Regiment] 
Ma]. Henry Dearborn's Light Infantry 

Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor's Brigade: 

1st New Hampshire Regiment, Col. Joseph Cilley 
2d New Hampshire Regiment, Lt Col. Jeremiah Gilman 
3d New Hampshire Regiment, Col. Alexander Scammell 
2d New York Regiment, Col. Philip Van Cortlandt 
4th New York Regiment, Col. Henry Beekman 
Col. Thaddeus Cook's Regiment, Connecticut Militia 
Col. Jonathan Latimore's Regiment, Connecticut Militia 

Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Learned' s Brigade: 

2d Massachusetts Regiment, Col. John Bailey 
8th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Michael Jackson 
9th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. James Wesson 
Col. James Livingston's New York Regiment 

(formerly 1st Canadian) 
Col. Stephen Evans' Regiment, New Hampshire Militia 
Lt. Col. Abraham Drake's Regiment, New Hampshire 


Brig. Gen Abraham Ten Broeck's Brigade: 
(Parts of the following Albany County Regiments, 


New York Militia:) 
1st Albany County Regiment, Col. Jacob Lansing 
3d Albany County Regiment, Col. Francis Nicoll 
4th Albany County Regiment, Col. Robert Killian Van 

5th Albany County Regiment, Col. Gerrit G. 

Van Den Bergh 
6th Albany County Regiment, Col. Stephen John 

1th Albany County Regiment, Col. Abraham Van Alstine 
8th Albany County Regiment, Col. Robert Van 

9th Albany County Regiment, Col. Peter Van Ness 
10th Albany County Regiment, Col. Henry Livingston 
11th Albany County Regiment, Col. Anthony Van 

12th Albany County Regiment, Col. Jacob Van 

13th Albany County Regiment, Col. John McCrae 
14th Albany County Regiment, Col. John Knickerbacker 
16th Albany County Regiment, Col. Lewis Van Woert 

Brig. Gen. John Glover's Brigade: 

1st Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Joseph Vose 
4th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. William Shepard 
13th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Edward Wigglesworth 
15th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Timothy Bigelow 
2d Albany County Regiment, New York Militia, 

Col. Abraham Wemple 
17th Albany County Regiment, New York Militia, 

Col. William Whiting 
Col. Morris Graham's Regiment of Dutchess and 

Ulster County New York Militia 

Brig. Gen. John Nixon's Brigade: 

3d Massachusetts Regiment, Col. John Greaton 
5th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Rufus Putnam 
6th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Thomas Nixon 
7th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Ichabod Alden 
2d Hampshire County Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 
Col. Ezra May 

Brig. Gen. John Paterson's Brigade: 

10th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Thomas Marshall 
11th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Benjamin T upper 
12th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Samuel Brewer 
14th Massachusetts Regiment, Col. Gamaliel Bradford 
1st South Berkshire Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Col. John Ashley 
3d York County Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Lt. Col. Joseph Storer 


Brig. Gen. Jonathan Warner's Brigade: 

Central Berkshire Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Col. John Brown 
5th Middlesex Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Col. Samuel Bullard 
3d Suffolk County Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Col. Benjamin Gill 
1st Hampshire County Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Col. Benjamin R. W oodbridge 
4th Essex County Regiment, Massachusetts Militia, 

Col. Samuel Johnson 


Connecticut Light Horse, Maj. Elijah Hyde 

Sheldon's Light Dragoons, 2d Troop, Lt. Thomas Seymour 


Independent Battalion, Maj. Ebenezer Stevens 


Col. Jonathan Baldwin's Detachment of Artificers 

3. Organization of the British Army in the 
Saratoga Campaign of 1777 

General Officers: 

Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne 

Maj. Gen. William Phillips 

Maj. Gen. Baron Adolf von Riedesel 

Brig. Gen. James Hamilton 

Brig. Gen. Simon Eraser 

Brig. Gen. W. R. von Gall 

British Units: 

9th Regiment of Foot, Lt. Col. John Hill 

20th Regiment of Foot, Lt. Col. John Lind 

21st Regiment of Foot, Lt. Col. (Brig. Gen.) James 

24th Regiment of Foot, Lt. Col. (Brig. Gen.) Simon 

47th Regiment of Foot, Lt. Col. Nicholas Sutherland 
62d Regiment of Foot, Lt. Col. John Anstruther 
10 Companies of Grenadiers, Maj. John Dyke Acland 

(20th Regiment) 
10 Companies of Light Infantry, Maj. Alexander Lindsay, 

the Earl of Balcarres (53d Regiment) 



1 Company of Rangers, Capt. Alexander Fraser 

Royal Artillery, Maj. William Griffith 

Canadians, Maj. Samuel McKay (Royal Americans) 

Highland Emigrants, Capt. Lt. George Law 

Loyalists, Lt. Col. John Peters 

Indians, Maj. John Campbell (47th Regiment) 

German Units: 

Hesse-Hanau Regiment Erbprinz, Col. (Brig. Gen.) 

W. R. von Gall 
Regiment von Riedesel, Lt. Col. Ernst Ludwig von Speth 
Regiment von Rhetz, Lt. Col. Johann Gustav von 

Regiment von Specht, Maj. Carl Friedrich von 

4 Companies of Brunswick Grenadiers, Col. Heinrich 

Christoph Breymann 
4 Companies of Brunswick Chasseurs, Maj. Ferdinand 

Albrecht von B'drner 
1 company of Brunswick Jagers, Capt. von Geyso 
Brunswick Dragoons, Lt. Col. Friederich Baum 
Hesse-Hanau Artillery, Capt. Georg Pausch 

4. A Note on Infantry Weapons and Tactics 

One of the most persistent traditions associated with 
the American Revolution is that a major factor in its 
success was the difference in the tactics of the ad- 
versaries. According to this interpretation the British 
and their German auxiliaries, captives of an out- 
moded tradition developed on Europe's open battle- 
fields, marched into battle in close formation against 
skilled American sharpshooters who fought as indi- 
viduals from the cover of trees and walls. Events at 
Lexington and Concord in 1775 and at King's Moun- 
tain in 1780 seemed to lend some support to this 
belief, but even in those engagements American 
marksmanship has been over-rated. Most of the 
battles of the war were fought by the soldiers of 
both armies according to standard European prac- 
tice and with standard European weapons. 

The basic infantry weapon of the 18th century was 
the flintlock musket, a smoothbore piece that fired a 
lead ball approximately %-inch in diameter (.75 
calibre). Because the ball fit so loosely in the barrel 
of this weapon, its accuracy was limited and its 
effectiveness depended upon the "linear tactics" of 


the time. A line of battle consisted of two or three 
ranks drawn up shoulder to shoulder with minimum 
depth between ranks. Another rank of "file closers" 
sometimes followed at about six paces to replace 
casualties. In the attack the men moved forward, 
maintaining their alignment, aware that they were 
relatively safe until they were within about 100 yards 
of the enemy line. Fire discipline was important be- 
cause it was desirable that soldiers not fire until 
they were about 50 yards from their opponents. In 
fact, the theory was that it was better to receive, not 
deliver, the first fire, to sustain the losses and fire 
when close enough to the foe that every shot found 
a mark. 

Firing was by volley, not "at will." All loading and 
firing was done by command with little or no aim- 
ing in the modern sense. The volley was directed 
ahead or to the left or right oblique as commanded. 
The object was to lay down a curtain of fire, and 
rapidity was more highly prized than accuracy. A 
desired rate was one shot every fifteen seconds, a 
rate that would assure at least two volleys at an 
approaching enemy in a typical charge. 

It is important to understand that the ranks of men 
were not normally in extended order. They formed a 
compact mass, presenting a good target for fire from 
another compact body of men at point blank range. 
As Harold L. Peterson, an authority on weapons and 
their effects, has observed, "Accuracy would have 
been superfluous in this type of warfare. Speed was 
everything. Speed for the defending force to pour as 
many bullets into the attacking force as possible; 
speed for the attacking force to close with its adver- 
sary before it had been too severely decimated to 
have sufficient strength to carry the position." 

There were situations, even in Europe, in which a 
more accurate weapon was needed. Flankers, rang- 
ers, pickets, and small scouting parties where there 
was occasion for individual action required accurate 
marksmanship. It was for these men and in these 
circumstances that the rifle proved a valuable arm. 

In contrast with the musket, the rifle was highly ac- 
curate. Rifling, or the spiral grooves in the bore of a 
firearm that cause a projectile to spin when fired, 
imparted greater stability to the bullet. When prop- 
erly employed, as at Saratoga where Gates combined 
them with Dearborn's light infantry, the riflemen were 
invaluable for scouting, skirmishing, and sharpshoot- 



ing. Except for these specialized operations, how- 
ever, they were of little military value because of 
their slow rate of fire and their vulnerability to attack 
due to the fact that a rifle-bayonet had not yet been 

Both armies at Saratoga had riflemen. The Ameri- 
cans had Col. Daniel Morgan's Corps of Riflemen, 
and the British had the German Jagers (hunters) who 
performed the specialized functions for which they 
were equipped while their comrades fought in line in 
compliance with standard practice. At Saratoga, as 
elsewhere, the infantryman with a bayonet-bearing 
musket, capable of delivering a higher volume of fire 
than the rifle and with enough accuracy for the 
tactics of the period, was the man who won or lost 
the battle. 

5. A Note on Infantry Organization 

The regiment was the basic infantry unit of the 
British army, but it was an administrative — not a 
tactical — element. The nominal or administrative 
commander was the colonel who contracted with 
the Crown to raise the regiment for a given sum of 
money. Except for the units that carried the title 
"Royal," the regiments were thus the property of the 
colonel. The active or personal commander was the 
lieutenant colonel, who led the regiment in the field. 
The tactical organization was the battalion, and the 
terms "regiment" and "battalion" were practically 
synonymous, because during the war a regiment 
consisted of one battalion. The standard regiment/ 
battalion had 10 companies, eight of which were 
called "battalion companies." The other two were 
the elite "flank companies": one company of grena- 
diers and one of light infantry. 

The American regiments were modeled after the 
British, but the active command was exercised by 
the colonel until after January 1778, when the rank 
of "Lieutenant Colonel, Commandant" was created 
to facilitate the grade for grade exchange of regi- 
mental commanders who were prisoners of war. The 
number of companies and the strength of the Amer- 
ican regiments varied from State to State and time 
to time. 


A. Note on Sources 

This narrative of the Saratoga campaign is based 
upon American, British, and German sources, most 
of which are in manuscript form. Those for the com- 
plex story of the British plans for 1777 are found in 
the Colonial Office Records, Series 5 and 42, Public 
Records Office, London; British Museum, Additional 
Manuscripts 34313, 37883, and 38209; Lt. Gen. John 
Burgoyne, A State of the Expedition from Canada . . . 
(London, 1780); the Lord George Germain and Henry 
Knox Papers in the William L. Clements Library, Ann 
Arbor, Mich.; Sir William Howe, The Narrative of 
Lt. Gen. Sir William Howe in a Committee of the 
House of Commons . . . (London, 1780); and Sir 
John Fortescue (ed.), The Correspondence of King 
George the Third from 1760 to December 1783 (6 
vols., London, 1927-8). 

Manuscript sources for the details of the campaign 
include the Philip Schuyler Papers in the New York 
Public Library; the Horatio Gates Papers in the New- 
York Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and 
the New York Public Library; the William Livingston 
and Benjamin Lincoln Papers and the Forbes Col- 
lection of New England Diaries in the Massachusetts 
Historical Society; the Henry Dearborn Papers in 
the New York Public Library; the Varick Papers in 
the New-York Historical Society; the Sir Henry 
Clinton Papers in the William L. Clements Library; 
the Ebenezer Stevens Papers in the New-York His- 
torical Society; Briefschalten und Akten des General- 
leutenants Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, Freiherr zu 
Eisenbach; "Tagebuch Julius Fredrich Wasmus;" 
and "Fragment eines Tagebuch uber die Braun- 
schweig Truppen in Amerika, 1777." The last three 
items are in the Niedersachsisches Staatsarchiv, 
Wolfenbuttel, Germany. 

Among the articles that provide useful details con- 
cerning the Saratoga campaign are two valuable 
studies by Jane Clark: "The Command of the Cana- 
dian Army for the Campaign of 1777," Canadian His- 
torical Review, X (1929), and "The Responsibility for 
the Failure of the Burgoyne Campaign," American 
Historical Review, XXXV (1930); William B. Willcox, 
"Too Many Cooks: British Planning Before Sara- 
toga," Journal of British Studies, II (1962-3); and 
John Luzader, "The Arnold-Gates Controversy," 
West Virginia History, January 1966. 

Recent research has significantly changed the de- 
tails and interpretation of Hoffman Nickerson's The 
Turning Point of the American Revolution (Boston, 


1928), the only scholarly book-length study of the 
Saratoga campaign. Troyer Anderson, The Com- 
mand of the Howe Brothers during the American 
Revolution (New York, 1936); William B. Willcox, 
Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of 
Independence (New York, 1964); William B. Willcox 
(ed.), The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton's 
Narrative of His Campaigns (New Haven, 1954); 
Piers Mackesy, The War for America 1775-1783 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1964); John R. Alden, The Amer- 
ican Revolution 1775-1783 (New York, 1954); Willard 
M. Wallace, Appeal to Arms (New York, 1951); John 
C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom (New York, 1948): Don 
Higginbotham, The War of American Independence 
(New York, 1971); and Ira D. Gruber, The Howe 
Brothers in the American Revolution (New York, 
1972); all contain valuable information on the 

A limited number of studies of individuals and their 
careers contain valuable contributions to under- 
standing the story of Saratoga. Among them are two 
works edited by George A. Billias: George Washing- 
ton's Generals (New York, 1964) and George Wash- 
ington's Opponents: British Generals and Admirals 
in the American Revolution (New York, 1969); Willard 
M. Wallace, Traitorous Hero: The Life and Fortunes 
of Benedict Arnold (New York, 1954); Don Higgin- 
botham, Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman 
(Chapel Hill, 1961); North Callahan, Daniel Morgan: 
Ranger of the Revolution (New York, 1961); Don R. 
Gerlach, Philip Schuyler and the American Revolu- 
tion in New York, 1733-1777 (Lincoln, Nebr., 1964); 
Martin H. Bush, Revolutionary Enigma: A Reappraisal 
of General Philip Schuyler of New York (Port Wash- 
ington, 1969); Samuel W. Patterson, Horatio Gates: 
Defender of American Liberties (New York, 1941); 
Gerald S. Brown, The American Secretary: The 
Colonial Policy of Lord George Germain (Ann Arbor, 
1963); and Alan Valentine, Lord George Germain 
(New York, 1962). 

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ing the wisest use of our land and water resources, protecting 
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National Park Service 



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